Social media platforms across Illinois have seen a rise in posts regarding the Pretrial Fairness Act that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. Users are sparking controversy around the Act claiming criminals charged with second-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, burglary and arson will be allowed to walk free. The law has been inaccurately compared by some to popular horror movie “The Purge.”
The Pretrial Fairness Act is part of the Saft-T Act, a wide ranging criminal justice bill passed by Illinois lawmakers in 2021 following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd. The Safe-T Act is an attempt by Illinois lawmakers to help reduce the number of those being detained.
The new law eliminates cash bail in Illinois entirely for those deemed eligible for bail. While the new legislation imposes higher standards for suspects awaiting bail, judges will still have the jurisdiction to order suspects accused of forcible crimes to be detained in jail if they are deemed as threats to the public.
The text of the bill states that, “Detention only shall be imposed when it is determined that the defendant poses a specific, real and present threat to a person, or has a high likelihood of willful flight.”
Some of those opposed to the bill are prosecutors who claim that presenting evidence that suspects are threats to the public will create a major backup in law offices. Mayors across the Chicago-land area from Oak Lawn, Tinley Park and Orland Park, have voiced their concerns over the passing of the Pretrial Fairness Act in recent weeks.
Another point of contention has been the question of whether defendants currently in jail will be released on Jan. 1, however, Gov J.B. Pritzker’s office has contested this claim, saying the bill does not mandate the immediate release for those accused of specific felonies and misdemeanors.
Illinois appears to be following in the footsteps of New York, who got rid of its cash bail in 2019.