© 2024 NPR Illinois
The Capital's Community & News Service
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Illinois Lawmakers Vote to End Cash Bail


The Illinois General Assembly passed an expansive criminal justice bill on the last day of the lame-duck session, which, among other changes, would end the use of cash bail and impose new certification requirements for police officers. The measure was a part of a slate of bills spearheaded by the Legislative Black Caucus.

Gov. JB Pritzker released a statement Wednesday afternoon, praising the Black Caucus’ efforts and indicating his support for the bill, which now awaits his signature.

“This criminal justice package carries with it the opportunity to shape our state into a lesson in true justice for the nation,” Pritzker said in a written statement. “By abolishing cash bail, modernizing sentencing laws, instituting a certification and decertification system for police officers statewide, requiring body cameras, reforming crowd control response, and amplifying law enforcement training standards.”

Some controversial elements in the legislation-- including the repeal of qualified immunity status for law enforcement and changes to collective bargaining agreements for police officers -- were removed in the final version.

Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago), one of the chief sponsors of the bill, said that repealing cash bail requirements restored some humanity to the criminal justice system.

“What we do know is that it is inhumane to subject anyone to pretrial detention before their hearing. In this country you are innocent before proven guilty,” Slaughter said.

The state will have until January 1, 2023 to fully abolish cash bail. The suggestion to phase-in new pretrial procedures over a two-year period came from the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices.

At a news conference Wednesday with the Coalition to End Money Bond, Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago), who also supported the measure, said the work has only begun to transform pretrial practices throughout the state.

“What we know about money bond is it stands at the intersections of race, class, and gender,” Peters said. “Over the next two years, we’re going to work to break down a system that stands at that intersection.”

Another advocate of the measure, Sharone Mitchell Jr. of the Illinois Justice Project, said passage of the omnibus bill goes beyond ending cash bail.

“It creates a data collection system that will allow us to make better data-driven solutions going forward as we make adjustments,” Mitchell said. “And it remaps the decision making process for determining who should be in jail and who shouldn't be in jail.”

Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers voiced concern the bill moved too quickly and will result in unintended consequences.

The final changes to the proposal were filed in the early morning hours Wednesday, and the Senate voted on the omnibus bill shortly after. After approval from the House Wednesday morning, the bill now awaits the governor’s signature.

“This sort of thing should not be done in the waning hours of lame duck session,” Sen. Steve McClure (R-Springfield) said during the early morning discussion. “We should have had committee hearings, we should have allowed people to testify, we should’ve done this right.”

Republicans say the measure will lead to unfunded mandates for departments now tasked with buying body cameras for officers. Additionally, GOP members believe contradictory language in the bill related to ending cash bail could ultimately harm public safety.

Proponents of ending cash bail argued judges would still have discretion to deny bail to those who pose a threat to public safety.

The criminal justice package also included recommendations from the Illinois Attorney General’s office concerning the certification of members of law enforcement.

In an abbreviated House floor discussion, Republican lawmakers questioned the effectiveness of the new decertification procedure and claimed there was contradictory language in the legislation which would not be addressed before passage.

Derek Cantù is NPR Illinois' graduate student Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2021 legislative session.
Related Stories