Illinois SAFE-T Act: Cook County Chief Judge says 'cash bail doesn't work'

A top Cook County Republican and several Democrats in the Chicago City Council are urging voters to vote "no" on Chief Judge Tim Evans.

"We know that there was over a hundred alone that were violent criminals that were on electronic monitoring that went on to commit other violent crimes up to and including murder," said Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison of Palos Park.

After 21 years as Cook County's chief judge, Evans is the most prominent name on the judicial retention ballot. He needs at least 60% to vote "yes," or he will lose his seat next month.


Evans responded Friday morning on Good Day Chicago to those critical of releasing hundreds of accused violent offenders on electronic monitoring or without cash bail.

"They don't simply understand what the law is," Evans said. "Cash bail does not determine whether somebody is safe in the community or not. These gang members have that money. They can be guilty and they can get out. So, no. cash bail doesn't work. And if we can get rid of cash bail and focus on who is a clear and present danger, they will be held pre-trial."

That's precisely what critics say they doubt, claiming too many dangerous defendants get pre-trial release from Cook County judges.

"We know that, as of a week ago, over 100 people whose main charge is murder and they were repeat offenders, they were out on electronic monitoring," Morrison said.

Evans has said he reviewed many of those accused murder cases. He found some defendants released pre-trial had strong alibis or, for other reasons, were not a threat to commit additional violence. He says remaining free until convicted at trial underpins American justice.

"Some people say, ‘Oh, my goodness! This person was charged with a crime yesterday and here he is back out on the street again today.’ Yes, and that's what's to be expected," Evans said.

As he's fighting now to keep his job as Cook County's chief judge, on Evans’ side is the fact that very few judges have ever failed to get the 60% "yes" votes needed to win retention. Two years ago though, voters did toss a state supreme court justice out of office.