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Bail Reform Examples Around U.S. Limited as Illinois Law Takes Effect

With Illinois set to become the first state to eliminate cash bail, other jurisdictions in the U.S. that have tried similar yet more limited measures could give a clue as to how it will play out, but it is hard to know what to expect, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. An approach to bail reform in Washington, D.C., has appeared to be effective; 83% of people were released to the community (most with conditions) at their first court appearance, and 88% of defendants were not arrested for another crime. New Jersey put bail reform measures into effect in 2017, and since then the state has not seen a rise in the rate of people charged with new crimes while out on pretrial release. Alaska and New York, however, have rolled back or are considering rolling back cash bail reforms.


An expert said in Alaska it is hard to find conclusive evidence of the effects of bail reform, and in New York, an expert said the problems with bail reform seemed to stem from how it was rolled out. “They rushed to put the new law into effect and there was no deliberate process for getting buy-in from across all of the audience that need to be brought in," said Insha Rahman with the Vera Institute of Justice. "And almost three years later, New York is still facing a lot of backlash around bail reform and there’s talk of more rollbacks." As researchers at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government found, "It is notable that none of the studies we analyzed for this report found that bail reforms led to a meaningful increase in crime.” Under the Illinois law, judges will hold detention hearings where prosecutors and defense lawyers argue whether a person poses too much danger to the public to be released or is considered a flight risk. No one will have to put up money to get out. “People do better when they are connected to their family [and] they are employed,” said Vera's Rahman. “Jail interrupts all of that … and has incredibly negative consequences.”

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