Illinois is poised to become the first state in the country to end the use of wealth-based pre-trial detention. The change has been a long time in the making – so long that one of the first organizers working to change the Illinois bail system six years ago got elected to the state senate and became a co-sponsor of the Pre-trial Fairness Act.
In courtrooms across the US, pre-trial release payments, called bond or bail, create dual systems of justice – one for the wealthy who can pay their way out of pre-trial incarceration and another for those who can’t afford it. Studies have also shown that hundreds of thousands of Americans like Mayes end up pleading guilty or receiving harsher sentences because of unaffordable bonds, whether or not they are guilty.
My opinion? Let’s see what happens. Numerous studies have shown that bail does little to achieve its intended purpose of ensuring court attendance – people released on their own recognizance were just as likely to come back to court for their trials as people who posted money bond and no more likely to reoffend awaiting trial.
Wealth-based detention is at its core, a racial justice issue. Across the country, Black, Latino and indigenous people are detained pre-trial at far higher rates than people of other ethnicities. If given a money bail, Black people receive significantly higher bail than all other ethnic and racial groups and are less likely to be able to post the bail amount. Bail is usually set by judges in less than a minute and people with almost identical charges are often assigned bails that differ by tens of thousands of dollars.
Please read my Legal Guide titled Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.