The Purge is NOT coming to Illinois: Ending cash bail is a step in the right direction
By Jarvis Williams, Policy and Advocacy Director
After GOP gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey was recently quoted saying “Chicago is living the purge,” a lot of misinformation regarding the SAFE-T Act has circulated the internet. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the SAFE-T Act last year, ending a system that disproportionately hurts the poor and favors wealthier defendants. First, Illinois becomes the first state to end the cash bail system. Second, under the new law judges will decide each case on an individual basis to determine whether release is appropriate and will base their decisions on if the suspect is a threat to the community or a flight risk and not based on his or her ability to pay. Both are a good thing and a step in the right direction.
An author of the law, State Sen. Elgie Sims, explains it well: “A person charged today with murder, rape, sex offenses or gun crimes can use cash to pay for their release and be back on the streets.” Under the new law, a person charged with those offenses “cannot buy their release no matter how much money they have,” he stated. There’s so much misinformation about the SAFE-T Act (House Bill 3653) that fact-checking website Snopes has written a whole entry on the subject. Do not be fooled by political rhetoric.
House Bill 3653 expands safety, fairness, and justice by transforming the state's criminal justice system and enacting statewide police reforms through the following:
- Moves Illinois from a system of pretrial detention that prioritizes wealth, to one that prioritizes public safety.
- Diverts low-level drug crimes into substance use programs and treatments.
- Eliminates license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees due to red light camera and traffic offenses.
- Determines who should be released based on assessing public safety, not on how much money you have.
- Modernizes archaic sentencing laws and streamlines the victims' compensation system.
- Requires more investments in officer training, mental health, and officer wellness.
- Expands training opportunities for officers, requires health and wellness services for officers, and protects officers from unjust lawsuits based on their reasonable actions.
- Sets statewide standards on use of force, crowd control responses, de-escalation, and arrest techniques.
- Requires the use of body-worn cameras by police departments statewide.
- Professionalizes policing through the creation of a more robust certification system and lays out clear standards and processes for decertification.
- Expands accountability across police departments by requiring the permanent retention of police misconduct records and removes the sworn affidavit requirement when filing police misconduct complaints.
- Requires police departments to develop plans to protect vulnerable people present during search warrant raids.
While this new law is a step in the right direction, it falls short of addressing some of the systemic barriers that disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities and avoids addressing archaic laws that perpetuate incarceration inequities. Nonetheless, we are hopeful lawmakers will continue to make progress and present laws in the interest of fairness and justice for all.
Provisions of the law will go into effect January 1, 2023. For more information, visit www.HB3653.org.