Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs sweeping Illinois criminal justice overhaul including eliminating cash bail | Law and order

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Critics of the cash bail system say it criminalizes poverty. Getting rid of it does not mean that everyone goes free while awaiting trial. Judges make that call based on the threat a defendant poses.

“What we’ve done is strengthen judicial discretion when it comes to determining whether someone is a threat to a person or community,” said Sen. Robert Peters, a Democrat from Chicago. “We focused this explicitly and narrowed it so money does not play a factor. Money does not determine whether someone’s a threat.”

The bill’s major sponsors, Sen. Elgie Sims and Rep. Justin Slaughter, both Chicago Democrats, have said they’re willing to work with police groups to tweak parts which might need improvement.

“You don’t switch on the switch and everything just happens,” Slaughter said Monday. “We are going to have to evolve, level-set with law enforcement, talk about these issues, talk about these challenges.”

Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, said the wide-scale protests that followed George Floyd’s death after the coronavirus pandemic already had exposed many inequities in society were a call to action for Black lawmakers.

“The tragedies of this last year could have just left us beaten down and defeated. But we did not let it,” Lightford said. “We leveraged it to create real change, to create a better future for our children and grandchildren.”

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