Letter to the Editor | Cash bail engenders socioeconomic inequity
January 13, 2021
On Nov. 9, State Sen. Peters introduced the Pretrial Fairness Act (SB4025) to the State Senate.
This bill will prohibit the use of money bond; if this passes, no one will be incarcerated before trial because they are unable to pay bail. The bill contains other important elements, but its main contribution will be ending pretrial detention practices that disproportionately affect working-class and marginalized communities. Outcry over the murder of George Floyd reminded us of the need to continue the fight against police brutality and mass incarceration on every front; this includes the growth of jail populations across Illinois.
According to a 2018 Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority report, 90% of those held in jail statewide have not been convicted. Wealth, not safety, is the determining factor keeping many people behind bars, contributing to jail and prison overcrowding. Pretrial incarceration impairs the ability to formulate a proper defense. Individuals unable to make bail usually rely on underfunded and overburdened public defenders. Many incarcerated people choose to simply plead guilty, as pretrial detention could mean loss of jobs, parental custody, or housing, and separation from their families.
The fact that the median income for Black and Latin American people is $20,00 lower than white people means cash bail takes on a racist character as well. This bill will be voted on in early 2021 in the Illinois General Assembly. Please spread the word about this bill and contact your state representatives. The fight against mass incarceration will continue, but this bill would provide needed relief to many Illinois individuals and families unfairly affected by cash bail.
If you would like to learn more about the fight against pre-trial detention and mass incarceration in Champaign County, please follow the Champaign County Bailout Coalition (Twitter: CUBailout, Facebook: ChampaignCountyBailoutCoalition, or champaigncountybailoutcoalition.wordpress.com)
Peter is a senior specializing in computer science.