Former Attorney General Joins Fight to Make Cook County’s Bail System Fairer

Cook County’s cash bail system is under fire and facing reform amid concerns it violates the rights of the poor.

Recently Eric Holder, the former Attorney General in the Obama administration, joined the battle to reform the system across the whole of Illinois.

Cash bail systems are coming under fire across the country and Cook County’s is no exception.

Holder and his law firm prepared a memo at the request of Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli, reported WTTW.

Cook Country seeks to make bail fairer

Cook Country seeks to make bail fairer

It’s Holder’s opinion that Cook County is violating both the Eighth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution because the county is routinely setting bail amounts irrespective of defendants’ ability to make bail. The county is set to change the process.

Campanelli said an important recommendation is to ask the Illinois Supreme Court to consider setting up hearings to decide if defendants can even afford bail before setting an amount. The upcoming changes in Cook County are set to be replicated across the state.

In July, Cook County Chief Justice Timothy Evans ordered his bond court judges to steer away from a cash-for-bond system, warning it can violate the rights of the poor 

Up to 300 defendants are jailed every day in Cook County because they cannot afford to post bail of $1,000.

The political momentum for reform is gathering pace in Illinois and elsewhere. The Chicago Tribune reported prosecutors in Cook County will stop opposing the release of detainees held for certain nonviolent offenses because they can’t afford bonds.

Campanelli said in the recommendation:

“We can’t have people in Cook County looking at the present ability to pay and they are getting released on high bonds or high bonds with conditions but the rest of the state is being held in custody because they’re poor. So we need uniformity and we need permanency.”

The State of New Jersey has led the way in scrapping the cash bail system. Earlier this year, the Garden State eliminated cash bail this year for people accused of low-level crimes.  

A study four years earlier by a criminal justice consulting firm, Luminosity, and the Drug Policy Alliance found that nearly 40 percent of people in New Jersey jails were locked up in cells because they could not afford to pay their bail.

The state scrapped cash bail. Under the new law, judges either hold a defendant who is a danger to public safety or a flight risk, or release them before trial, possibly with a curfew or a GPS monitor.

At Abdallah Law, we can fight for your rights if you are being kept in jail due to poverty. Call us at (312) 229-0008.