CHICAGO — State lawmakers met with community members at St. Sabina Church Tuesday night to clear up what they called “misconceptions” and “fear-mongering” around the SAFE-T Act.
THE SAFE-T Act, drafted by the Illinois Black Caucus, was approved in January 2021 and covers everything from police use of force to equipping officers with body cameras.
“Reform does not equal anti-police. You can want reform. You can reform the system without attacking law enforcement,” said Illinois Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago).
The no cash bail portion that takes effect Jan. 1 has gained the most attention, however.
“Cash bail stands at the intersection of racism, classism, sexism and essentially makes it a crime to be poor,” said Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago)
Under the Pretrial Fairness Act, it shifts the burden to prosecutors to prove a defendant poses a clear and present threat to the safety of a specific, identifiable person or persons and is a flight risk in order to detain them.
Someone charged with murder, rape, sex offenses, or gun crimes cannot buy their release, no matter how much money they have.
“There are a lot of things you have to do. You see, when you’re in the court system that it’s tough. I don’t know if there’s anything tougher than having to sit down with a grandmother and have a conversation with a grandmother about whether she should pay her rent or whether she should pay for her loved ones’ freedom,” said Cook County public defender Sharone Mitchell.
Critics are comparing no cash bail to ‘the purge’ where criminals roam free. Supporters hail the move, saying it ends systemic racism in the justice system while allowing prosecutors to put more resources and focus on violent crime.
“We will not take a step back. This is about taking a step forward moving forward with the Pretrial Fairness Act and truly, honestly realizing safety and justice and fairness in our state,” said State Sen. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago).
The SAFE-T Act has been amended several times. Lawmakers are expected to take up a new Senate bill when they return to a veto session in mid-November.
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