Illinois SAFE-T Act: New law is a 'get out of jail free card,' former prosecutor says

The SAFE-T Act is a 700-page bill that reforms Illinois’ criminal justice system in many ways, including increasing police oversight and supporting crime victims.

The controversy, however, has focused on the elimination of cash bail, and a former Cook County prosecutor tells FOX 32 Chicago he's concerned about another aspect.

"It's how it severely limits a judge's discretion in who a judge can hold, even when that person is clearly a danger to the community. And that's the scary proposition about this," said Dank Kirk, a former high-ranking prosecutor at the Cook County State's Attorney Office.

Kirk says there's a long list of felonies where a suspect may no longer be detained before trial, starting on January 1.


FOX 32 asked him to break down specific crimes starting with a kidnapping.

"Unless the state asks that the person be detained, and the state can prove that the person has a specific intention to flee the jurisdiction, that individual cannot be detained in jail prior to trial," Kirk said.

He says it's the same for a deadly aggravated DUI, and a burglary where the suspect has a long record.

In that case, Kirk described the SAFE-T Act as a "get out of jail free card."

He also says holding someone for an alleged hate crime or felony threat to a school all hinge on proving the suspect is a flight risk.

"How many times are you going to have a defendant that has an airline ticket in hand or says to the judge I plan on leaving? That's simply not going to happen," said Kirk.

Governor JB Pritzker has said there could be tweaks to the bill.

One Democratic State Senator introduced a bill to clarify some language, allowing a judge to detain a suspect if they pose a safety threat to any person or the community.

You can expect debate on this in the state legislature starting next month.