SAFE-T Act: Illinois Supreme Court halts abolition of cash bail

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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, pictured at a September 2021 news conference in the Loop.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Illinois Supreme Court halted the abolition of the cash bail system in the state on Saturday, the day before that landmark criminal justice reform was poised to take effect in much of the state. 

The bail system overhaul — written into law as the Pretrial Fairness Act, the most controversial provision of state’s widely scrutinized SAFE-T Act — was thrown off this week when a Kankakee County judge sided with authorities in 64 counties who have sued to stop the reform, deeming it a violation of the state Constitution. 

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Friday had appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court to overturn that decision. Meanwhile, attorneys general in DuPage and Kane counties asked the top court to issue an order providing clarity with the state seemingly headed into the new year with more than half the state maintaining the old cash bail system and the remaining 38 counties — including Cook — ushering in a cashless bail era. 

But the state Supreme Court ordered on Saturday that the Pretrial Fairness Act won’t go into effect until further notice “in order to maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois.” 

Raoul’s office didn’t have immediate comment. 

Throughout this past election season, Republicans pounced on the Democratic-written SAFE-T Act and bail abolition, aiming to paint liberal opponents as soft on crime. 

Under the new law, a judge’s decision on whether to lock up a defendant before trial would hinge solely on whether the judge thinks the person is a public threat or a flight risk. 

Supporters say it would make the justice system more equitable; opponents claim it could leave more dangerous people on the street. 

Authorities in Cook County, who had stood “firm in our commitment to the smooth and successful implementation of the SAFE-T Act in its entirety,” could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Read the Illinois Supreme Court’s order:

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December 31, 2022 at 05:06PM

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