Futterman and Conyers on their Opposition to Amendments to The Pretrial Fairness Act

Op-Ed: Keep the Pretrial Fairness Act as-is

Pretrial justice reform was sorely needed in Illinois to address the harm the money bond system has caused Black, Brown, and poor communities. As former public defenders and current clinical law professors, we know firsthand how the money bond system created an unfair, constitutionally-suspect, wealth-based approach to pretrial jailing outcomes.

Legislators took a major step in the right direction by passing The Pretrial Fairness Act in 2021. The legislation, set to go into effect in January, is aimed at reducing incarceration by ending the money bond system in Illinois. The purpose is simple: to ensure that people are not held in jail simply because they cannot afford to buy their freedom. But now, state legislators are considering amendments to the Pretrial Fairness Act that would undercut the purpose of the legislation and exacerbate the very issues the Act is meant to address. 

The Pretrial Fairness Act allows people charged with serious crimes to be detained if they pose a flight risk or risk to public safety while limiting the scenarios in which people charged with low-level crimes can be jailed. The Illinois State’s Attorney’s Association has seized upon confusion created by a multi-million dollar misinformation campaign paid for by fringe political advocates to propose changes to the law. Provisions in the proposed amendments would remove the guardrails set up to achieve the law’s goal of reducing pretrial jailing while protecting public safety. The result of adopting these changes would be devastating; they would increase pretrial jailing, worsen racial disparities, and make our communities less safe. 

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