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Articles Tagged with bail reform

While the media may have you believing that ending cash bail means allowing anyone charged with a crime to go free, the matter is not so simple or so haphazardly employed.

Imagine if you are charged with a crime you did not commit based on a witness misidentifying you. You don’t think it can happen to you? Well, it can. Now, if you have money, you just pay your way out of jail and wait for the charges to be dropped because the case is not strong enough. But what if you do not have the money to pay for the bail? You then have a choice. You can either plead guilty to the crime to get the matter settled and be on about your life, or you can fight the charges, stay in jail, and hope the system works the way it is supposed to. Since you have little faith in that happening for you, you end up taking a plea deal to get out of jail. In other words, the poor can be leveraged into plea deals simply to avoid being stuck in jail. 

Is that fair? Of course, not. While some folks want to make the rules fairer, others are convinced that society would fall apart if we did not leverage the poor into false confessions based on the deprivation of their freedom. 

According to a recent opinion piece by the Daily Mail, “woke” bail reform is putting murderers back on the streets of Chicago. This is not strictly true. In 2020, when the jails and prisons were overcrowded with suspects awaiting charges, it became more routine to release individuals on ankle monitors. However, it is true that reforms in the way we do bail are impacting how it functions and who qualifies.

To be sure, Illinois is not woke when it comes to bail reform. Some states have moved to do away with the cash bail system, and we will get into their reasons why below. However, Illinois is not one of them so the idea that Chicago is putting murderers out on the streets at a greater rate than say, New York or Los Angeles is false. One of the reasons why Chicago takes it on the chin when it comes to these sorts of accusations is that we have a large Black population, a history of political corruption, and a reputation for organized crime. However, we are no more woke than, say, Birmingham, AL when it comes to our bail system. 

COVID releases, overcrowding, and ankle monitors

There has been a great deal of discussion recently over the role bail plays in American society. Political pundits who are rallying against bail reform cite instances of re-offense while the suspect is awaiting charges for another crime. Political pundits in favor of bail reform argue that the system is patently unfair and individuals charged with nonviolent crimes rot in jail for a year while the wheels of justice slowly turn.

Now, one charity is being scrutinized by the media after providing bail to inmates who then turned around and offended again.

Habitual Criminal Activity

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225Curtis Lovelace was charged with the murder of his wife, Cory Lovelace, in Illinois. After a mistrial the first time around, a jury decided that the prosecution had not met their burden of proof and acquitted Lovelace of the crime. Nonetheless, Lovelace was sent a bill for over $40,000 for posting bond and various expenses related to his in-home incarceration. We also spent some time in a county jail before he was able to get friends to lend him the money.

Lovelace is now jobless, family-less, and his life is destroyed. After the acquittal, Lovelace petitioned the court to return the entire $350,000 bond. But instead, they sent him an “administrative fee” for $35,000 and charged him another $5,000 for the 277 days he wore an electronic monitor.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Illinois declined to hear his case.

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225Rule 26 went into effect on January 1st, but some counties are implementing a 30-day “trial period” to comply with the state’s new rule. Other counties have already implemented the new rule, and have seen benefits. The rule, which passed in the last legislative session, will impact how bail and pretrial release works in the State of Illinois. It is the result of two separate initiatives on the best practices for criminal justice

The pilot program began as early as 2016 with 11 counties volunteering to adopt the measures. The initiative, which had its fair share of detractors, changes the way the bail system works and does away with money bail. Instead, the judge conducts a pretrial risk assessment when deciding if or when a suspect will be released and what kind of supervision they require. The ultimate goal of Rule 26 is to decrease jail populations.

In other words, instead of paying your way out of a jail cell, judges, in concert with other law enforcement officials, will be able to conduct risk assessments on suspects to determine whether or not they should be released on their own recognizance. However, ultimately, it is the judge’s decision alone that will impact if a suspect is released and the conditions of that release. 

nicolas-barbier-garreau-256433-copy-300x240The cash bail system has drawn flak from all quarters for many decades. The system’s insensitive handling of people with criminal charges needs proper revision. The instance of Lavette Mayes is a telling example. Mayes could not pay the huge bail amount that the judge charged her with. Only with the help of her defense attorney and a local bail funding organization, Mayes managed to free herself from custody.

Benefits of Chicago Bail Law Reforms

The Illinois bail reform passed in 2017 is a big boon to residents of the state. According to the reform bill, cash for bail will not be necessary anymore. Most of the inmates languishing in the state prisons are there because they cannot pay bail. With the reform, you need not spend time in jail for nonviolent or misdemeanor charges, or some low-grade felonies.

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