Gov. J. B. Pritzker signed a criminal justice bill Monday that is massive both in its size – 764 pages – and scope.
The bill will eliminate cash bail, require law enforcement officers to wear body cameras and create a certification program for police.
“All Illinoisans will live in a safer and more just state with this law on the books,” Pritzker said at the bill signing ceremony. “In short, this legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling systemic racism that plagues our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice.”
The bill’s sponsors say the legislation was necessary to fix a criminal justice system “rooted in racism” with policies that amounted to a penalization of poverty.
The bill addresses “police policies, whether that’s use of force, crisis intervention training, a more enhanced certification process and also a statewide body cam program,” said Democratic state Rep. Justin Slaughter. It also looks at “sentencing reform and addressing our mass incarceration crisis, more judicial discretion for lower-level mandatory minimums, alternatives to custody, and of course, to be the first state to legislate ending cash bail.”
Holding people in jail while they await adjudication can have swift and severe implications on their personal circumstances, sponsors say.
“Studies show that after three days a person’s life starts to unravel,” said Democratic state Sen. Elgie Sims. “They lose their job, they lose their home, if they don’t have adequate child care for their children, their children can go into the child custody system … The pretrial process takes place before a person is even convicted of a crime. So we are instituting these policies on the backs of individuals who have not convicted of a crime yet.”
The abolition of cash bail will begin in January 2023, while the body camera requirement for officers will take effect by 2025. Additionally, the bill now allows for anonymous complaints to be made against police officers. Complainants in the past have had to sign an affidavit to do so.
Republican state Sen. John Curran says while eliminating cash bail creates a more equitable system, he believes it’s necessary to expand eligibility for risk assessment to cover all forcible felonies.
“The objections we have here are the limitations what forcible felonies are eligible for that risk assessment,” Curran said. “We were looking for a model like New Jersey where all crimes were eligible for that hearing if there was a basis to bring for the prosecutor to bear that burden that motion to detain … we certainly want to see more discretion given to judges. This has a very strong presumption in the bill for pretrial release.”
The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus is expected to move forward with additional legislation on education and economic policy in the coming weeks.