County officials react to Illinois Supreme Court ruling allowing SAFE-T Act ‘No Cash Bail’ provision
ILLINOIS (KWQC) - In a groundbreaking decision, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a section of a law that would make it the first state to completely abolish a cash bail system.
The SAFE-T Act passed in 2021, and its no cash bail provision was supposed to take effect on Jan. 1 of this year.
After months of legal disputes on the law’s constitutionality, the Illinois Supreme Court determined that ending cash bail is constitutional. The court issued the 5-2 ruling on Tuesday.
Sheriffs and State’s Attorneys in Illinois are now left with 60 days to figure out how the new system will roll out in their counties.
Knox County State’s Attorney Jeremy Karlin wanted to see bail reform in Illinois. However, he felt the SAFE-T Act wasn’t the proper implementation as there wasn’t a uniform way to roll it out across the state’s 102 counties.
He joined other prosecutors in suing the state over the law.
Karlin believed the ruling is correct. He said he joined the suit as he wanted the justices to weigh on its legality, not the county courts.
“Now, it’s up to law enforcement, prosecutors, ... judges and other stakeholders to take the statute, which is vague, contradictory in parts, and then convert it into something that is just fair, and predictable,” Karlin said.
Whiteside County Sheriff John Booker agrees that the cashless bail part of the SAFE-T Act is confusing and vague.
He said in the next few weeks, his department will look at how to implement the system.
“Our ultimate thing as sheriffs and police officers throughout the state of Illinois, we want to make the streets safe,” Booker said. “If a person allegedly commits a crime, we want to make sure the victims are safe. That’s our goal.”
Karlin isn’t worried about how to keep those accused of violent crimes in custody under no cash bail. Instead, he worries it will make it harder to help the offenders that need it the most.
“It really makes it difficult for prosecutors like myself, who have to try to use an imperfect system — the judicial system — to try to detain people until we can get them into a better setting, like to a mental health hospital or its detox,” Karlin said.
According to Booker, the law shouldn’t cause panic, as there will still be a system to keep the riskiest offenders in jail.
“We’re not just opening the doors and letting these people charged with offenses to go out,” Booker said. “They’ll go through the process, have a hearing, and it’ll determine whether they are held in jail or released.”
With the court’s judgment, cash bail will be abolished on Sept. 18.
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