Bail reform appears to be at the center of debate again, with the most recent move to end bail in Illinois.
Different bail reform measures have taken place over the past few years, including the money bail reform act of 2019 and Missouri’s Supreme Court ruling in 2020 that judges have to consider non-monetary conditions for pretrial release.
The latest reform in Illinois ends cash bail under the Pretrial Fairness Act, which states access to wealth will not play a role in release or detention decisions, according to the endmoneybond.org.
“I think really the picture that we’re looking at in Illinois, is where is this going to land? And I don’t think we know, it’s not going into effect until January 1, 2023. But the real open-ended question is who’s staying in jail pending trial? And who’s not?” Jeff Clayton, the executive director of the American Bail Coalition, said.
Clayton says Illinois is not the first state to eliminate bail, pointing at other states that made significant changes to their constitution.
“(...) look to New Jersey and to a certain extent, New Mexico, both of which had to change their state constitutions to deny the right to bail and to sort of enumerate the charges where we’re gonna leave somebody in jail pending trial,” Clayton said. “As I see it, that’s the major open-ended question in Illinois, and what the Illinois Supreme Court cautioned them before they did this, which is you need to figure that out, you need to think about what the ultimate system would look like.”
Local law enforcement spoke in past interviews about bail reform and how there has been an increase in defendants’ failure to appear, but that it comes down to each individual.
“You’re not going to get preventative detention; this legislature is not going to fully fund a robust system of preventative detention of repeat criminals. It is just not going to happen. So that is why to law enforcement, it’s false hope that there’s going to be some alternate system that’s going to work better,” Clayton said.
Circuit Judge Keith Marquart, with the Buchanan County Courthouse, discusses the bail reform and how it affects defendants and the public.
“There’s a balance that has to be struck between the interests of the accused, the interests of society, and the presumption of innocence. So we start with the presumption of innocence, that a person is in custody, we should release them unless there is a reason not to,” Marquart said. “The reasons not to include: they have a previous record, they have a record of not appearing before, they have a record, which includes resisting arrest, they’re charged with a serious offense involving danger to the community or danger to individuals, or their violent offenders.”
Marquart breaks down other forms of bail that are not of monetary conditions.
“You’re not to use drugs; you’re not to drive, you have to submit to drug testing, you have to wear a drug monitor or an alcohol monitor, you have to wear GPS devices,” Marquart said.
There might be a minor monetary condition to go along with the other requirements, such as posting 10% of a certain amount or go through a bail bond, Marquart said.
Marquart said those expenses would cost more than the average bond amount when looking at house arrest and GPS monitoring.
Currently, Marquart says he has not seen an increase in defendants failing to appear since the ruling last year but stresses that if an individual does not show, they can likely have their bail revoked and held without bail until their case is over.
“I know that in my court, as for my entire judicial career, I’ve stressed it’s important to me that you show up,” Marquart said. “It’s important because my job is to be fair. And if you’re not here to give me your idea of what fairness is in this case, then the concept of fairness in your case is going to be flawed.”