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Illinois becomes first state to sign law eliminating cash bail

February 24, 2021

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has signed sweeping criminal justice reform legislation this week that would end cash bail statewide by 2023.

Why it matters: Illinois is the first state to move to eliminate cash bail, which critics say is a “poor people’s tax” that benefits the wealthy who can afford to post bail, and disproportionately affects people of color.

How it works: Under the new law, most defendants would be released while awaiting trial unless a judge rules otherwise, per Chicago’s WGN9.

What they’re saying: Pritzker said in a statement the legislation “marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice.”

  • State Sen. Elgie Sims (D), a member of the Black Caucus that authored the bill signed by Pritzker Monday, said in a statement, “These reforms should merely be the first steps we take to transform criminal justice in Illinois.”

The big picture: The bill also requires police in the state to wear body cameras, sets standards on use of force, crowd control responses, de-escalation, and arrest techniques, and eliminates license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees for some traffic offenses, among other measures.

  • The provisions are set to be phased in over four years from July 1.

The other side: State House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said in a statement Tuesday the incoming laws were an “insult to our first responders, law enforcement and the law-abiding citizens of Illinois who want to be free from violence and destruction from the criminal element.”

  • Ed Wojcicki, executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police referred to reforms in a statement as the “anti-police bill.”

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