Last Monday Illinois, unlike Oklahoma, became the first state to completely eliminate cash bail, a practice that disproportionately affects Black and Latino communities as well as low-income communities.
Governor JB Pritzker signed HB3653 into law. It ends a pretrial detention system that benefits the wealthy, expands training and wellness programs for law enforcement, modernizes sentencing laws, and prioritizes treatment and rehabilitation for low-level drug crimes.
“This legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism. [A system] that plagues our communities, our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice,” said Gov. JB Pritzker.
Most pretrial detainees have been charged with nonviolent crimes
According to a 2019 study by the American Bar Association, on any given day, as many as 500,000 people are held across the country in local jails simply because of their inability to pay bail. Often, those being held on bail have simply been accused of low-level offense; for instance, 75 percent of pretrial detainees have been charged with only drug or property crimes.
Many portions of Illinois House Bill 3653 will go into effect on July 1. It will be another two years, however, January 2023, before the no cash bail policy is put in place. That’s more than enough time, according to the Illinois Attorney General, to work out any challenges that come with such a monumental change.
For every 100,000 people in the Black and Latino racial groups, there are on average 3,796 and 1,876 people incarcerated respectively. This is well above Oklahoma’s already staggering number of 1,079 per 100,000 people. It shows that people of color are overrepresented in it’s jails.
“In the middle of a brutal viral pandemic that hurt Black people and Brown people disproportionately. Lawmakers fought to address the pandemic of systemic racism in the wake of national protests,” said Gov. Pritzker. “Today we advance our values in the law. Progress secured despite the pandemic, because of the passion and push of the Legislative Black Caucus, activists, advocates, and residents intent on leaving a better Illinois for all our children.”
Let’s hope and continue to fight to ensure Oklahoma is not far behind.