Facing mounting criticism from a variety of groups and officials over provisions of the “SAFE-T Act” that will ban cash bail in the state beginning on Jan. 1, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker encouraged lawmakers to take up any provisions they deem necessary to clarify and improve the measure.
The act, which will require judges to determine whether individuals accused of violent crimes and felonies pose a flight risk or a risk to the safety of the public when determining whether they should be incarcerated before trial, is set to go into effect Jan. 1, and has drawn fierce opposition from a variety of groups, and has even triggered lawsuits by multiple state’s attorneys.
During an interview with NBC 5 Political Reporter Mary Ann Ahern, Pritzker says that he anticipates that the General Assembly will debate tweaks to the bill when they convene for their veto session beginning on Nov. 15.
“State’s attorneys have been saying that they would let violent criminals out of jail on Jan. 1 because of their own d“Let’s amend it, but not end it,” he said. “State’s attorneys have been saying that they would let violent criminals out of jail on Jan. 1 because of their own disinformation and misinterpretation of the ‘SAFE-T Act.’ We need to make sure they don’t let people out on Jan. 1. Let’s write it specifically into the law.”
A variety of tweaks have been proposed, including an amendment proposed by Sen. Scott Bennett that would seek to widen judicial authority to detain defendants they deem to be a risk to the public.
Criminal justice groups have largely come out in opposition to that amendment, arguing that it would undermine the original intent of the bill. Pritzker did not take a stance on that particular provision, either in Tuesday’s debate with Republican challenger Darren Bailey or in his interview with NBC 5, but he encouraged lawmakers to bring all ideas to the table in the veto session.
“They talk about certain kinds of felonies that people are held for that are awaiting trial. Let’s be clear what the things are about, and what people can be held for,” he said. “Judges should be making these decisions for the good of the community.”
Under the provisions of the bill, as passed by the General Assembly, the state will allow judges to determine whether individuals accused of a specific set of felonies and violent misdemeanors pose a risk to another individual, or to the community at large. Judges will also be asked to determine whether the defendant poses a flight risk if released.
If the judge makes any of those determinations, then the defendant may be held in jail prior to trial.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has faced criticism and questions on multiple fronts during this election cycle, but what did he have to say about the amount of money spent on his reelection bid, his travel impact on the climate, and more? Here’s NBC 5 Political Reporter Mary Ann Ahern.
The list of so-called “forcible felonies” that could invite judicial discretion on pretrial detention include first and second-degree murder, predatory criminal sexual assault, robbery, burglary, residential burglary, aggravated arson, arson, kidnapping, aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm, or any other felony that involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against an individual.
Detention hearings are not mandatory for crimes that include probation as a possible punishment, but judges can still make the determination to keep those defendants incarcerated pending trial if they determine they are a risk to the public.
Those charged with stalking, aggravated stalking, domestic battery and aggravated domestic battery would also potentially be subject to pretrial detention.
Republicans have largely blasted the measure, and some state’s attorneys on both sides of the aisle have challenged the legislation in court.
Some challenges, including one filed by Knox County State’s Attorney Jeremy Karlin, argue that since cash bail is included in the state’s constitution that a bill cannot eliminate the policy. He also argues that the statute is worded too vaguely, and that it could be interpreted in different manners in different counties.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, a Democrat, filed suit against the bill, arguing that it was rushed through the legislature in violation of laws that require a bill to remain in front of the body for at least three days.
Bailey has argued that the bill should be repealed, accusing Democrats of “making life easier for criminals” during a gubernatorial debate.