'System Racismic' Is Why One State Eliminated Its Cash Bail System

Posted: Feb 24, 2021 8:25 PM
'System Racismic' Is Why One State Eliminated Its Cash Bail System

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Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) on Monday signed a criminal justice reform bill that eliminates the cash bail. The Prairie State is the first state in the country to eliminate the system.

Those who take issues with cash bail frequently say poorer communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the system.

"This legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice," Pritzker said in a statement. "In this terrible year, in the middle of a brutal viral pandemic that hurt Black people and Brown people disproportionately, lawmakers fought to address the pandemic of systemic racism in the wake of national protests. This bill was also infused with solutions from individuals most directly impacted: survivors of domestic violence, survivors of crime, and those who have been detained pre-trial only because they are poor. Today we advance our values in the law - progress secured despite the pandemic, because of the passion and push of the Legislative Black Caucus, activists, advocates, and residents intent on leaving a better Illinois for all our children."

In addition to eliminating cash bail, a "use of force standard" will have to be defined by Jan. 1, 2022, and all law enforcement officers will be required to wear body cameras by 2025. Funds will also be allocated towards mental health services and low-level drug offenders will be diverted to rehab.

Law enforcement agencies, however, disagree with the move, saying the state legislature and governor ignored more than 120,000 people who signed a petition in opposition to the bill, Fox News reported. The coalition includes "the Illinois Sheriffs' Association, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Illinois Troopers Lodge 41 and state and local branches of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police."

"Because we are sworn to protect and serve the public, we sincerely hope that we will not be proven right about this new law, that it won't cause police officers to leave the profession in droves and handcuff those who remain so they can't stop crimes against people and property," the Illinois Law Enforcement Coalition said in a statement. "Please don't let us measure its dismal failure by the shattered lives it produces."

According to The New York Times, the cash bail system will remain in effect until Jan. 2023. This will give court officials time to prepare for the judicial system's overhaul. 

Other states, like California, New York, and New Jersey, have tried to implement similar changes. Illinois repeatedly tried over the last few years. It was the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement that prompted the reform.