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Cook County State's Attorney Calls For Change To 'Unjust' Bail Policy

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Jun 12, 2017 10:46PM

Cook County's cash bond system has been scrutinized and criticized for unfairly keeping people accused of relatively minor offenses locked up before trial because they can't afford to pay for bail.

Some of that could change soon, the County State's Attorney's Office announced Monday. Per a new policy, prosecutors will be recommending to judges that people who have been charged with those lower-level, non-violent offenses be released between arraignment and trial.

"Routinely detaining people accused of low-level offenses who have not yet been convicted of anything, simply because they are poor is not only unjust—it undermines the public's confidence in the fairness of the system," State's Attorney Kim Foxx said in a statement.

In addition to keeping poor people locked up who might otherwise be bailed out of jail, the current status quo has been criticized for contributing to the county jail's overcrowding problem and for the financial costs to the county of jailing inmates between their arraignment and trial—called pre-trial detention. According to the Tribune, a year in jail for one person can cost the County as much as $60,000.

Meanwhile at the state level, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a Bail Reform Act on Friday that says people charged with nonviolence crimes will no longer need to pay a cash bail amount to get out of jail. The Act also says that, if a detainee's bond is set at a higher price than the person can pay, the County must hold a hearing on the bail amount within seven days, thus giving the detainee the opportunity to contest it.