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Democrats differ on whether changes are needed to SAFE-T Act

While Republican lawmakers and the Illinois law enforcement are nearly unanimously opposed to the cashless bail provision set to go into effect Jan. 1 as part of the SAFE T Act, there are different opinions among Democrats on what needs to change.

The Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity Today, or SAFE-T, Act, was approved by the General Assembly in January 2021.

It makes several changes to the criminal justice system, including the elimination of cash bail statewide, making it the first state to do so.

The measure faces a consolidated lawsuit from dozens of state’s attorneys and sheriffs across the state.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently voiced her concerns with the no cash bail provision and pre-trial release of accused criminals that is already happening in Cook County.

“I have been talking about the dangers we are seeing in the Cook County court system regarding a pre-trial release for a year and a half. So it is nothing new,” Lightfoot said. “There are too many dangerous criminals on the street, period.”

The latest comment was a shift from the mayor’s previous comments about public safety as of late October. Lightfoot previously said crime is down in the city and that residents should feel safe.

“We work hard every single day to make sure people feel safe because they are safe,” Lightfoot said a few weeks ago. “That is why year over year we are down 17% in homicides, 19% in shootings, and we continue to look for ways in which we can improve.”

State Sen. Ann Gillespie, D-Arlington Heights, spoke at a roundtable event focused on the SAFE-T Act, which included state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, and other groups.

Gillespie insists the measure will improve public safety throughout the state.

“I have supported the SAFE-T Act for the simple reason that I believe it will help us be smarter when fighting crime,” Gillespie said. “I also believe it will help keep our communities safer.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who recently won a second term, was asked about the controversy around the measure. Pritzker said there needs to be changes to clear up what he calls misinformation regarding cashless bail.

“So let us amend the act to make it very explicit that violent criminals that are in jail awaiting trial, that Jan. 1 is not some deadline to let people out,” Pritzker said.

The bill also limits who can be arrested and jailed depending on their crime.

Illinois lawmakers will return to Springfield for the fall veto session Tuesday.

This article originally appeared on The Center Square.

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