Illinois set to eliminate cash bail in 2023

Illinois is beginning the process of removing its cash bail system. (Source: KFVS)
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 5:53 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2022 at 10:22 PM CDT
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VIENNA, Ill. (KFVS) - Come January 1, 2023, the State of Illinois is set to eliminate the cash bail system.

However, southern Illinois lawmakers and law enforcement say it could make communities more dangerous.

“I believe the elimination of cash bail, particularly as it’s written in the SAFE-T Act, will reduce public safety and lead to more crime particularly more violent crime in Illinois,” Patrick Windhorst, former state’s attorney and current state representative for district 118, said.

Windhorst said he voted against this bill when it came about. He said he was one of the leading voices against it.

The Illinois SAFE-T Act is legislation aimed at overhauling the state’s criminal justice system.

“I know that talking with prosecutors and law enforcement officers, they’re really concerned that the public is going to point the finger at them and say, ‘Why aren’t you doing more about these offenses?’ And with this major change in the law, beginning January 1st, a lot of their ability to do their jobs has been restrained,” he explained.

The Johnson County sheriff agreed with Windhorst.

“Anyone sitting in jail right now with all these pending charges, they’re going to be let out,” Johnson County Sheriff Peter Sopczak said. “The gates are open and they’re going to be let out onto the streets.”

The bill passed with the support of upstate lawmakers. Proponents of the law say it’s wrong to keep people locked up simply because they can’t afford bail.

According to Sheriff Sopczak, fewer suspects will end up going to jail. Only suspects involved in specific deadly threats could be held.

“So it’s really taking the hands out of the police arresting people. We’re going to end up calling someone saying, ‘Can we arrest them?’ Just because of liability if you take someone into custody and it doesn’t meet all the criteria, well, then you can get in trouble,” said Sopczak.

Sopczak also said he isn’t clear how the law will be implemented.

Representative Windhorst listed some of the offenses that won’t involve detention before going to trial.

“So there are a whole list of violent crimes, burglary, robbery, arson, kidnapping, almost all drug offenses even drug distribution, DUI offenses, even DUI offenses that are involving a fatality, that do not qualify for detention under the Illinois Safety Act. To me, that’s going to mean a lot of individuals are committing crimes and being released immediately, if not within a couple of days,” he said.