The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a measure eliminating cash bail in the state, finding that Democratic lawmakers did the right thing when they passed the law, which will transform Illinois’ criminal justice system and limit the capacity of judges to hold defendants in prison before trial.
The Illinois law, which went further than similar bail reviews in other states, was part of a national push to reduce the prison population and end a system in which wealth can determine whether a defendant goes home to await trial . But it infuriated many county prosecutors and sheriffs, who said the law was passed improperly and made the state less safe.
In its ruling on Tuesday, the Supreme Court said cash bail will end in Illinois on Sept. 18.
Cash bail has been used extensively for decades. Rather than sitting in jail awaiting a trial that may not start for months, a defendant can deposit money with the court and remain free. But if they don’t show up when they’re supposed to, the defendant risks losing that money.
Civil rights groups and politicians, many of them Democrats, have long called for the system to be curtailed or abolished and for more defendants to be released free of charge. Critics say the cash bail system is unfair to poor defendants, who risk losing their jobs or homes if they can’t afford to post bail.
New Jersey and New Mexico have significantly reduced the use of cash bail, but have not eliminated it entirely. New York cleared him for some types of offenses but not others. Those moves also led to fierce opposition and some second thoughts.
The Illinois law passed with broad Democratic support and was signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker, part of a shift to the political left since Democrats reclaimed full control of state government in the 2018 election.
Republicans have had their say opposition to the cash bail bill during last year’s campaigns, but Mr. Pritzker won re-election by a wide margin and Democrats retained their legislative majority.