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New Electronic Monitoring Law in Illinois ‘Ignored’ in Chicago

New rules around pretrial electronic monitoring are being ignored in Chicago's Cook County, with Illinois lawmakers pushing to undo more reforms, the Intercept reports. In 2021, Illinois passed a criminal justice reform bill called the Pretrial Fairness Act that extended modest additional privileges to people under electronic monitoring, commonly known as EM. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart unilaterally limited those privileges — limits that reform advocates said violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the new law. The law guarantees twice-weekly movement for essential tasks, such as going to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment, to “any person” subject to house arrest while awaiting a criminal trial. Some people under EM, however, also have court orders allowing for recurring movements, such as going to work or attending school.

A spokesperson for Dart confirmed that the policy excludes people with fixed movement schedules. “For individuals with court-ordered movement, free movement is not automatically applied,” said Dart aide Matt Walberg. “However, individuals in these situations can request additional movement.” The Pretrial Fairness Act, part of a larger bill called the SAFE-T Act, has long been opposed by police, prosecutors, and Republicans. As its provisions have gone into effect, local media, policymakers, and elected officials — including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat — have tried to undermine it by citing pretrial reforms as a driver of crime, despite evidence to the contrary. While ending money bond is a step toward reducing wealth-based discrimination in pretrial detention, it does not prevent courts from locking up people who are awaiting trial if there is a public safety reason for doing so.


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