Cook County sheriff calls for scrapping cash-bond system

CHICAGO (AP) — The Cook County sheriff has called for abolishing Illinois' cash-bond system, saying it's unfair to low-level defendants who can't afford to pay and puts society in danger when defendants with violent backgrounds are freed until trial when posting bail.

Sheriff Tom Dart's statement Tuesday comes days before the County Board has scheduled a hearing to overhaul how the county sets bonds.

Under current state law, cash bail is to ensure defendants show up for court and don't pose a danger to the community. Generally 10 percent of bail is paid by a defendant to obtain a bond to get out of jail before trial. Judges can allow for a "recognizance bond," in which no payment is required.

Dart's policy director, Cara Smith, said the sheriff's office is drafting legislation that would allow judges to assess whether a defendant should be in custody or released under conditions including electronic monitoring. She said Illinois would need to invest in more court services to help judges make decisions and improve monitoring of those freed pending trial.

No-cash bail would require legislative action to put emphasis on keeping defendants locked up, said Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

"I know many people are jumping on this bandwagon now, but if I had it my way, we wouldn't be relying on any money bails at all," Evans said to County Board commissioners last month.

The Cook County Board hearing is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday to discuss the issue pf monetary bonds.

"We're confident the County Board hearing will begin to provide the roadmap for overhauling the system," Smith said.