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Elimination of Cash Bail in Illinois Reduced County Jail Populations

More than half a year into implementation of a state law that eliminated cash bail, Illinois counties now have longer detention hearings, with money no longer a factor in whether someone will be released from jail, the Chicago Tribune reports. Illinois was the first state in the nation to outlaw cash bail. Experts caution that it’s still early to compare rates of reoffending before and after the law, while advocates push for more funding to support the state’s underfunded public defense system.

The Pretrial Fairness Act ushered in reductions in county jail population across the state and in Chicago's Cook County, according to state and county data. However, appeals of judicial detention decisions have soared, straining the state’s high courts. Overall, the law is “working as intended” in Cook County, according to a recent report from the Civic Federation and League of Women Voters in Cook County. Before the law was implemented, defendants would go before a judge, who would detain them or order release, often on condition of posting a monetary bail. Under the new system, prosecutors ask a judge to hold defendants in jail in cases deemed to present a flight risk or danger to the public when the offense charged allows for possible detention. Everyone else is released with conditions, sometimes including electronic monitoring, after an initial appearance.


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