For Immediate Release
January 26, 2023
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Amicus Supporting the Pretrial Fairness Act Filed with Illinois Supreme Court, Signed By More Than 400 Organizations, Elected Officials, and Faith Leaders
In March, the Illinois Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs that paused the implementation of the Pretrial Fairness Act pending the Court’s review.
Springfield, IL–Today, the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice and more than 400 signers, represented by the law firm Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. and the ACLU of Illinois, filed an amicus brief supporting the Pretrial Fairness Act. The brief supports the Illinois Attorney General’s Office’s appeal of a Kankakee County Judge’s ruling that sided with 58 State’s Attorneys and sheriffs suing Illinois leadership over the end of money bond. The amicus brief presents social science research and other evidence rebutting two false premises underlying the Circuit Court’s ruling: (1) that ending money bond threatens public safety, and (2) that requiring people to pay money bonds accomplishes any legitimate purpose of pretrial release. More than 400 organizations and individual faith leaders, professors, and elected officials signed onto the amicus brief defending the Pretrial Fairness Act.
“The time to end money bond in Illinois has arrived,” stated Ben Ruddell, Director of Criminal Justice Policy at the ACLU of Illinois. “We are confident that the Court will see that this law is constitutional, and that the policy will benefit thousands across Illinois. No one should be forced to languish in jail pretrial simply because they do not have resources.”
Throughout the amicus brief, the authors highlight the ways in which wealth-based pretrial jailing has destabilized the lives of people across Illinois. Pretrial incarceration has devastating impacts on the people incarcerated and their families, leading to job loss, housing instability, damage to family and community relationships, and lack of physical and mental health care.
The amicus brief asserts that it is a baseless claim that ending money bond and releasing people who are not a danger to others and are not a flight risk will lead to more crime. Studies show that pretrial incarceration is correlated with increased rearrest rates in the months and years that follow release from incarceration, which means that pretrial detention has actually most likely been making victims and communities, mostly those of color that are already burdened by violence, less safe. Jurisdictions where money bond has been eliminated or drastically reduced have not experienced an increase in failures to appear or new arrests of people released pretrial. Additionally, the brief cites data showing that the single most effective tool in reducing failure-to-appear rates is court date reminders, not the threat of forfeiting bail money.
“The use of money bail as a condition of release is a perfect storm of bad public policy. It is ineffective, racist, and extremely expensive,” said Matthew Piers, Partner at Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. “Since the Pretrial Fairness Act makes safety the primary determinant of whether a person is jailed or released before trial, rather than access to wealth, it replaces an illogical and deeply harmful bail system with one that will be just and effective. The data and research presented in this brief show that money bond has never made our communities safer and, in fact has likely been making them less safe.”
“Before I was incarcerated pretrial, I had a thriving business and was able to provide for myself and my two children,” said Lavette Mayes, a mother who was incarcerated for 14 months awaiting trial because she could not afford her money bond. “I lost all of that simply because I couldn’t afford to pay a money bond set by a judge in a matter of 30 seconds with no consideration of my lack of a criminal record or the fact that I had a five and a 14-year-old to take care of at home. People shouldn’t have to go through that nightmare experience.”
“We are confident that the Illinois Supreme Court will follow precedent and evidence to uphold the constitutionality of the Pretrial Fairness Act. Since the founding of this country's legal system, precedent is clear that the right to bail is the right to release pretrial—not to money bond. And, after decades of pretrial reform, from the landmark Bail Reform Act of 1966 to more recent legislation in New Jersey, the evidence is clear that ending money bond is consistent with fairness, due process, and public safety. As the organization that catalyzed the modern bail reform movement with the Manhattan Bail Project over sixty years ago, we are proud to join this amicus and stand with hundreds of other experts, researchers, and advocates in defense of the Pretrial Fairness Act," said Insha Rahman, Vice President of Advocacy & Partnerships at the Vera Institute of Justice.
“The current money bond system forces accused people without access to financial resources to make impossible choices and criminalizes poverty,” said Rev. Norma Patterson of Gamaliel Illinois. “The State’s Attorneys who filed this frivolous lawsuit will not stop our movement from bringing justice to communities suffering from disinvestment and crime that have been disproportionately impacted by the money bond system.”
The Pretrial Fairness Act was passed with support from over 100 organizations, legislators, policy advocates, and law enforcement and was signed into law nearly two years ago. This sweeping reform was intended to improve public safety and ensure Illinois’ pretrial system prioritizes facts over finances. Amendments to the law were negotiated and passed on December 1, 2022, with legislators agreeing to begin implementation on January 1, 2023 as had been planned for nearly two years. Shortly thereafter, a single county judge’s decision forced the Illinois Supreme Court to act, pausing implementation to ensure uniform application of the law across the state. The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice welcomes the court’s review and eagerly anticipates the end of money bond after the Pretrial Fairness Act is deemed constitutional.