Cook County Sheriff Calls for Elimination of Cash Bail
Getting arrested can be terrifying not just because of the prospect of spending time behind bars, but also because of the enormous costs that are involved. Even if you’re confident you can defeat the charges that have resulted in your arrest, you may not have the cash on hand to make bail. Hundreds of Cook County residents have spent extended periods of time in jail after an arrest for a minor offense, simply because they cannot afford to make bail. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is now advocating for an elimination of the cash bail system, calling instead for those charged with crimes to be released on their own recognizance where the court finds it safe to do so.
Currently, judges in courtrooms in Cook County such as the Markham Courthouse and Bridgeview Courthouse are tasked with setting bail for individual criminal arrestees. Judges are instructed to set bail where the judge deems it necessary to ensure that the defendant returns for subsequent court dates, complies with the terms of their release on bond, and does not harm the community during that time. When setting bail, judges are instructed to select an amount that is not oppressive to the individual who was arrested, adjusting for their individual financial ability. Judges should consider the type of offense with which the individual was accused, as well; violent offenses, ones involving weapons, or ones involving harm to a public official should result in the setting of a higher bail. Judges will also take into account the individual’s familial status, employment history, and ties to the community, as well as a public safety assessment that provides an idea of the possible risk posed by releasing the individual on bond.
Despite the instructions given to judges to set bail at an amount that would not be an unreasonable burden on the defendant, hundreds of individuals remain stuck in jail because they can’t make bail. “Today we have about 200 people who need $1,000 or less to post bond. Many of them have been in jail for some time. For them, there is no way of avoiding the oppressive nature of the bond that has been set,” said Cara Smith, a spokesperson for Sheriff Dart. Instead of relying on cash bonds, Sheriff Dart suggests that the state of Illinois should implement a robust background checking system, offering much more information to judges setting bail so that courts can feel confident that those released will not pose a flight risk or danger to their community. Additionally, the state would make greater use of electronic monitoring to ensure that offenders return to court after release and comply with the terms of their release.
If you’ve been arrested in the Chicago area and need dedicated, aggressive representation to ensure that your rights are protected, contact Homewood criminal defense attorney John Fairman for a consultation at 708-799-4848, with additional offices in Bridgeview at 708-960-4806.