With the election now two weeks away, a big issue in Illinois this campaign season is the SAFE-T Act.
Passed over a year ago in January 2021, the criminal reform bill is now causing concern focused on a specific provision — the elimination of cash bail.
This has led to some confusion among voters on what the bill actually means and now a group of bipartisan states attorneys throughout Illinois are speaking out against it, some going as far as filling lawsuits.
Local 4 is taking a closer look at how local leaders say the law could impact QCA communities and breaks down exactly what the elimination of cash bail is.
“The goal of it is to keep rapists, murderers, violent criminals in jail,” Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said.
The SAFE-T Act is raising concern on both sides of the political aisle.
“The SAFE-T Act must be repealed,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey said.
The biggest contention? The elimination of cash bail.
“The judge will have the discretion to determine whether or not the person should be held based on if their a danger or flight risk as opposed to how much money you may or not have,” Rock Island County public defender Hany Khoury said.
We decided to see just how often not having enough money for bond keeps people in jail and found an example for comparison:
Person A was charged with a higher level Class 1 felony for drug possession in Rock Island County and given a $50,000 bond.
Person B faced a lower level Class 3 felony in Jo Daviess County and given a $20,000 bond.
Person A in Rock Island County was able to bond out in just 10 days even with the higher bond and more serious charge, while Person B in Jo Daviess County sat in jail for six months — even though they were charged with a lower level offese.
Rock Island County Deputy Darren Hart, a candidate for Rock Island County Sheriff, explains the elimination of cash bail is for specific crimes.
“Your traffic offenses — Class C/Class B misdemeanors — things like that,” Hart said.
Rock Island County Sheriff candidate Patrick Moody says the elimination of cash bail will have a negative impact on Quad Cities area.
“They have no fear of being incarcerated … they’re going to commit more crimes,” Moody said. “Crime is going to go up. It’s obviously going to go up when you hold criminals less accountable for their actions.”
Local state’s attorneys are also against the bill, like Christopher Allendorf of Jo Daviess County, filing a lawsuit for the same reasons.
“Dangerous people will be let out of jail,” Allendorf said. “Not even detained — they would be released under the provision of the law.”
Mercer County State’s Attorney Grace Simpson agrees.
“I have had issues with this bill since the beginning,” Simpson said.
One of the first to file a lawsuit, she says it’s not just the elimination of cash bail that’s a problem.
“The material that they passed is life-alertering,” Simpson said. “It puts police in danger. It’s going to create issues with defendants getting out and recommitting. Frankly, it’s putting our community in danger.”
With much controvesy, state’s attorneys and senators on both sides are thinking about some changes that need to be made, including Champaign Senator Scott Bennet, the first Democrat to pitch chages.
“We have to start the conversation somewhere, Bennet said. “We’ve been having months of conversations about it, but the fact is until something is down in a bill I don’t think people take it very seriously.”