Across Illinois, judges, state’s attorneys and law enforcement officials are preparing to implement the SAFE-T Act.
According to Illinois Policy, the SAFE-T Act implements reformed policing, corrections and pretrial detention.
Police reforms include: Several restrictions to what constitutes a police officer’s justified use of force, including banning chokeholds, clarifications on when deadly force is justified and execution of search warrants; requiring all law enforcement agencies to use officer-worn body cameras by 2025; allowing anonymous complaints against officers and eliminating the requirement to sign a sworn affidavit; requiring the retention of misconduct records and increased reporting of crime statistics and use-of-force information by police departments.
Correctional reforms include: Reforming the Felony-Murder law so the defendant or someone acting with them must have caused a death in order to be charged with murder; loosening mandatory minimum sentences and supervised release terms.
Pretrial detention reforms include eliminating cash bail. This part of the SAFE-T Act has been made the most controversial. Critics say it will make it harder for prosecutors to detain defendants who pose a threat to themselves or others.
“I need to make sure that we implement the law, whatever the law is. I’m part of the Illinois State Attorneys Association, and I’ve worked with them very, very closely on trying to make sure the implementation of the SAFE-T Act is legal,” Jackson County State’s Attorney Joseph Cervantez said.
After 12 years of practicing law in courtrooms, Cervantez and other attorneys no longer know how to do the job, and he says they are supposed to be experts. They’ve had questions about the SAFE-T Act for 18 months, and they still don’t have answers to those questions.
What he has done is join with other state’s attorneys to file a lawsuit against the bill. One of his reasons for filing the suit is the constitutionality of it.
“So when you look at the cash bail issue, the cash bail issue is not my problem. I have no problem with it. I just want to make sure that we do it the right way,” Cervantez said.
He said one problem with eliminating cash bail is the people in prison now. They may be stuck from a misdemeanor, but there is nothing in the law about letting them out. It’s a civil rights issue.
For example, they could arrest someone Dec. 31 who would have to post a $10,000 bond. A person arrested for the same crime on Jan. 1 would not have to post bail.
Franklin County Sheriff Kyle Bacon also is preparing to implement the SAFE-T Act.
Franklin County is one of five pilot counties in the state. They have had numerous meetings to discuss the act.
Bacon said a lot of the act deals with administrative policy and procedures.
“There’s a lot of concern for how we implement pretrial detention changes from the act. My biggest concern is drug offenses,” Bacon said.
Very few drug offenses fall within the rules for detention and cash bail.
“My belief is that part of rehab is to begin to accumulate clean time,” Bacon added. “Clean time is directly related to incarceration.”
He said he has talked to many people for a long time about their recovery and what it took for them to get clean. Many of them say it started with clean time in jail.
Getting sober helped them consider what they needed to get their lives in order and to get off drugs.
When we arrest people, they will no longer spend several days in jail. They will be released in a few hours to about a day. They won’t see any substantial clean time, Bacon said.
“It’s a crucial concern I have,” Bacon said.
At one time, Bacon expected a stay would be put on the SAFE-T Act, so it would not go into effect until June or July. So far that has not happened.
“We’re trying to prepare for Jan. 1,” he said.
Bacon said the law also is concerning for those in charge of jails.
“People are incarcerated now, and when the law changes, they will not immediately be released. They are talking about a 60-day time frame,” Bacon said.
“We are making sure we meet the mandates of the law, whether we agree with it or not,” Bacon said.
December 23, 2022 at 12:53PM