(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Democrats have said they will be addressing the controversial SAFE-T Act during the veto session, but what changes will be made remains to be seen.
The Pretrial Fairness Act provision of the law abolishes cash bail on Jan. 1, making Illinois the only state to do so.
Democrats have said they plan to change some language in the legislation, but don’t plan to overhaul it and will keep in place the bail provision.
Sarah Staudt from the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice said it is unjust to charge people a fee for their freedom.
“Money bonds are causing immense suffering in Illinois,” Staudt said during a news event this week. “The Pretrial Fairness Act is meant to address that suffering and luckily will begin to address it on January 1st.”
The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice issued a report that involved court watchers observing bond hearings in several courtrooms around the state, including in McLean, Sangamon, DuPage and Peoria counties.
“This report confirmed what many of us already knew about bond court, that accused persons experience a lack of consideration for their ability to pay the bond set by the court,” said Kareem Butler, with the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice.
The report said at least 43% of court-watchers recorded some features of courtroom demeanor as “dehumanizing,” which included court personnel being too “business-like” when dealing with accused people.
Arguments will be heard Dec. 7 in a lawsuit filed by 58 Illinois counties regarding the legality of the SAFE-T Act. Those separate lawsuits have been consolidated to be heard in Kankakee County.
“This bill needs to be addressed, it needs to be reworked, it needs to be done in a way that involves the people that do this on a daily basis that have to deal with victims,” Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis said.
State Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, is calling on Democrats to do the right thing during veto session.
”Let’s get together, there are some ideas out there on the table, there are bills that have been filed, and we need to get together and fix this bill before January 1st,” Caulkins said.