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State officials debate over cash bail removal

(CREDIT: David Pierce/WCCU)
(CREDIT: David Pierce/WCCU)
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Major changes are coming to the criminal justice system in 2023.

On January 1, the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity -Today or "SAFE-T" Act will go into effect.

Prosecutors throughout Illinois are concerned about the new law, because it will allow people who are accused of crimes to be released from jail without paying bail.

Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Reitz said offenders can be released from jail for crimes that have probation as one of the possible consequences.

For example, kidnapping or aggravated battery.

"Even though aggravated battery is a violent offense that is a forcible felony, a person can get probation for it," Reitz explained. "It's not a detainable offense under the new statue."

Reitz says offenders getting released without having to pay bail can leave room for possible danger.

"The risk is they might do it again," Reitz shared. "Either to the same person who is a witness to the case or other witnesses."

FOX Illinois reached out to Illinois House Representative Marcus Evans Jr. (D-33rd District), who sponsored the bill.

He said the law focuses on pre-trial where everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

And if bail is an option today for a violent crime that is probational, then authorities can't determine if they are threat.

"If prosecutors would allow a bail, then they are saying 'this person is not a danger to society'," Rep. Evans said.

Rep. Evans said next year shouldn't be different.

He continued by stating that bail has been used against those who are economically disadvantaged and haven't yet been proven guilty.

Meanwhile, more affluent offenders get to walk free.

"Some people have been denied a bond because they're dangerous," Evans said. "But if they have a bond, the court is saying 'you're not dangerous and we're just going to keep you in jail, because you're poor.'"

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Other crimes like certain murder and domestic violence charges are also considered "forcible felonies", which do not allow probation.

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