Cash bail abolished in Illinois: Historic criminal justice reform takes effect

Starting Monday, there will be a significant shift in Illinois' criminal justice system as cash bail becomes a thing of the past.

The state Supreme Court's ruling in July upheld the SAFE-T Act, a landmark criminal justice reform law, stating it does not violate the state's constitution.

As a result, Illinois becomes the sole state in the nation to eliminate the requirement of posting money for release from jail.

Governor JB Pritzker hailed this decision as a critical step towards a more equitable and just Illinois.

FOX 32 previously spoke with Democratic state lawmaker Kam Buckner, an attorney who told us that cashless bail has always been about more than just the money.

"We are finally creating a system that is based on justice and not on money," he said. "We’re finally creating a system that is based on what you did and not what you have."

In 2022, Illinois lawmakers passed the controversial SAFE-T Act. Last December, a Kankakee County judge agreed with state’s attorneys in 65 Illinois counties who filed a lawsuit arguing that eliminating cash bail is unconstitutional.

The law eliminates the cash bail system, which had let those who could afford it to pay their way out of jail. Advocates argued cash bail unfairly impacts minorities and poor people, sometimes keeping them locked up for petty offenses.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson applauded the high court's decision:

"Today, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the Pretrial Fairness Act, ensuring that a person's ability to pay cash bail does not unfairly dictate their presumption of innocence in the court system.

Cash bail does not make communities safer, and it never has; it has simply exacerbated existing inequities and disparities in the criminal legal system. Pretrial detention, as a result of the inability to pay bail, further decimates communities that have long been most impacted by mass incarceration, and the destabilization of households and families.

I am grateful that we can move forward to implement this legislation to uphold justice and equity."