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New Issue Brief: Bail Reform in Chicago

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press release

New Issue Brief: Bail Reform in Chicago

November 22, 2022

NEW YORK, NY — Back in 2017, Chicago made unilateral alterations to how its judges determine bail under the advisement of Cook County, Illinois Chief Judge Timothy Evans. Now a statewide bail reform law known as the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act is poised to take effect in January 2023, which will eliminate cash bail and significantly narrow the legal bases for remanding defendants to pretrial detention. With a growing chorus of voices blaming bail reform for increases in Chicago's crime rates—and even more radical reforms to come with the implementation of the SAFE-T Act—it is worth considering the status of public safety in Chicago in the wake of Evans’ bail reforms. 

In a new issue brief for the Manhattan Institute, John Paul Wright, a professor at the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati, examines the divergent evidence on Chicago bail reform, finding it to be associated with a modest increase in the volume of crime in Chicago. That being said, even small reductions in public safety have a dramatic impact on community safety as quickly releasing dangerous offenders back onto the streets perpetuates violence and diminishes the legitimacy of the justice system. Further, Judge Evans’ reforms and the SAFE-T Act threaten to undermine public safety and disrupt the financing of the courts in ways that compromise the fairness and efficacy of the justice system.  

For this reason, Wright calls on bail reformers in Chicago and Illinois to acknowledge and reconsider their overreach. He argues that those released, and the mechanisms and conditions of their release, should always be driven by objectively legal criteria, such as the seriousness of their alleged crime, and by the risk an individual poses to the community. He says effective bail practices need to allow prosecutors and judges the flexibility to keep some defendants detained pretrial, independent of financial status. The best way to achieve balance is to reorient bail practices away from the defendant's financial abilities and towards the risks they pose to the community.  

Click here to view the full issue brief. 

Contact:Leah ThomasSenior Press Officer(419) 266-5959lthomas@manhattan-institute.org

  

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