City Cast

Cash Bail is Ending in Illinois. Now What?

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on September 18
A man pays cash bail at the Cook County Jail in 2022

A man pays cash bail at the Cook County Jail in 2022. (Brian Cassella / Tribune / Tribune / Getty)

Starting today, Illinois judges will no longer be able to require cash bail as a condition of pretrial release. Illinois is the first state in the U.S. to end the practice. Here’s what you need to know.

Why is Ending Cash Bail a Big Deal?

Under a traditional cash bail system, people accused of crimes can pay to be released ahead of their trial. But those who can’t are left waiting in jail — mostly low-income people and people of color.

Banning Cash Bail in Illinois Has Been a Long Road

After advocates fought for years to end the practice, the Illinois General Assembly passed the measure in January 2021 as part of the SAFE-T Act. A Kankakee County judge initially ruled the ban was unconstitutional, but the changes were ultimately upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court this summer.

What Happens Instead?

Judges still have discretion to jail people awaiting trial. The Pretrial Fairness Act says those accused of crimes involving violent felonies, gun cases, sexual assaults, or domestic attacks are eligible for detention — as is someone considered a flight risk.

Other Possible Effects

The official end of cash bail could reduce the jail population and change policing, but some fear it could also lead to an increase in electronic monitoring, WBEZ reported.

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