Cook County Jail Population Drops to About 5,500 After September 2017 General Order 18.8A Limits Use of Cash Bail

In October 2017, Cook County’s chief judge, state’s attorney, sheriff, board president, public defender and the chair of the county board’s Criminal Justice Committee all petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court to issue a rule that would eliminate pre-trial incarceration due solely to the inability to pay a money bond.

The proposed rule has been supported by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Y. Raoul, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, dozens of other prominent members of the Illinois bar and other leaders of the legal community, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and more than 70 community organizations.

The rule would anchor the reforms implemented in Cook County, General Order 18.8A, which was issued by Chief Cook County Circuit Court Judge Timothy C. Evans in September 2017.

In fact, in 2018, approximately 10,000 fewer people were incarcerated in the Cook County jail thanks to the decreased use of cash bail.

Cook County has made significant progress in the last two years, but there is still a long way to go.  More than 2,000 people remain incarcerated in the Cook County Jail solely because they cannot afford to pay any kind of cash bond. This is nearly half of the jail population. Significantly, it was also noted that each of these individuals had been cleared for pre-trial release by a judge and would be free from jail if he or she could afford the money bail. Of course, while they await trial, no one had been convicted of the alleged crime or crimes they may or may not have committed.

Wealth-based incarceration is an issue that affects thousands of families across Cook County.  Across the state of Illinois, more than 250,000 people every year are incarcerated in Illinois’ 92 jails – all of them presumed innocent awaiting trial. Thousands of people outside of Cook County are currently incarcerated due only to their inability to pay money bonds.

In response to the request to eliminate pretrial incarceration due solely to the inability to pay a money bond, the Illinois Supreme Court convened a commission to address the state’s pretrial practices, which will issue its recommendations regarding reform in December 2019.  The proposed rule is essential to meaningful reform of the criminal justice system in Illinois.

The authors of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article of July 25, 2018, Matthew Piers and Sharlyn Grace, urge the Illinois Supreme Court to adopt this rule.  It would be enormously beneficial in the ongoing efforts to reform a criminal justice system in this state.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling civil jury trials for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Lemont, Cicero, Bloomingdale, Elmhurst, Northlake, Melrose Park, Maywood, LaGrange Park, Chicago Ridge, Alsip, Crestwood, Dixmoor, Dolton, Calumet City, South Holland, Chicago (South Deering, Pullman, Calumet Heights, South Chicago, Washington Heights, Beverly, Morgan Park, Mount Greenwood, Marquette Park, West Lawn, Gage Park, Brighton Park, Archer Heights, Austin, Pilsen, Ravenswood, Rogers Park, Edison Park), Harwood Heights, Norridge, Des Plaines, Skokie and Lincolnshire, Illinois.

Robert D. Kreisman has been active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.  Mr. Kreisman chairs the Union League of Chicago’s Public Affairs Subcommittee, Administration of Justice, which advocates for, among other things, criminal justice reform and juvenile justice reform in the State of Illinois.

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