On Wednesday, the Illinois General Assembly passed H.B. 3653, a sweeping criminal justice reform bill that includes ending cash bail. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has already said he intends to sign the bill into law.
“I was proud to make ending cash bail and modernizing sentencing laws a legislative priority of my administration,” Pritzker said. “I have long pledged my support to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus in their efforts to pass not just criminal justice reform and police accountability measures, but also to truly root out the systemic racism that pulses through all our nation’s institutions.”
The comprehensive reform we passed today can be used as a foundation on which we can build a future where everyone in this state can be made whole.
Peters celebrates ending cash bail as criminal justice package moves to House
— State Senator Robert Peters (@senpetersil) January 13, 2021
A piece of the flawed puzzle
As the first state to do so, Illinois makes a historic move with the end of cash bail. The United States is one of the only countries in the world that has a cash bail system— a system that, like the larger prison industrial complex, discriminates against people of color and the poor. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, over 70 percent of the U.S. jail population is pretrial detainees, many of which are there because they can’t afford bail. What’s more, Black and Latino men are known to be assessed higher bail than white men for similar crimes.
“I am gratified that the Senate has passed this major reform package, and I believe it is the first step to transforming criminal justice in Illinois in a way that will uplift our communities and support our law enforcement professionals,” Sen. Elgie R. Sims said, who sponsored the bill.
Activists paved the way
The passing of H.B. 3653 realizes years-long efforts by the Coalition to End Money Bond and the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, who rigorously organized to end the racist and classist use of money bond.
“This victory is only possible because of our robust and diverse movement for justice,” the coalition said in a statement. “People from across Illinois came together and told our legislators that we would no longer allow people to be jailed due to the size of their bank accounts.”
This is only possible because of the incredible amount of work communities across the state have done to make this dream a reality. pic.twitter.com/hPwj9RRWNO
— Coalition to End Money Bond (@endmoneybond) January 13, 2021
It was a true communal effort. Following the murder of George Floyd and the responding Black Lives Matter protests, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (including Sims) held nine public hearings.
“A measure this transformative would not be possible without the heightened interest and vocal support of Illinoisans whose consciences have been shaken by years of misconduct without meaningful consequences,” Sims said. “Change, when it comes, always seems as if it has come too late, but I know that our successes here today are not an end, but a beginning to uplifting our communities and better supporting law enforcement in ways that improve our criminal justice system.”
For a further breakdown of H.B. 3653, click here.