Chicago’s leaders are praising Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans, who is making cash bail amounts more affordable for more non-violent offenders.
Defendants who pose no danger to the public will be released from custody pending trial because any future bail amounts will be set at an amount they can afford, under an order Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans entered July 17 that will take effect on September 18, 2017, in the Circuit Court of Cook County.
“Defendants should not be sitting in jail awaiting trial simply because they lack the financial resources to secure their release. If they are not deemed a danger to any person or the public, my order states that they will receive a bail they can afford,” Chief Judge Evans said.
Chief Judge Evans’ order states that a judge must ensure that “the defendant has the present ability to pay the amount necessary to secure his or her release on bail.” This means that judges in the Circuit Court of Cook County can only set bail in an amount that a defendant can afford to pay at the time of the bail hearing, which ensures the defendant’s release.
Evans’ decision won praise from Chicago leaders.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx said, “The Chief Judge’s order today provides important guidance for the judiciary and the entire criminal justice system on the need to reduce our reliance on monetary bond. There is often no clear relationship between the posting of a cash bond and securing the safety of the community or the appearance of a defendant. As a result, far too many people have been detained pre-trial because they are poor and unable to post even minimal amounts for bond. This order provides an important reminder that our focus should be on non-monetary conditions of bond to ensure appearance in court and protect public safety. I commend Judge Evans for continuing Cook County’s work towards meaningful bail reform.”
“There are too many of my clients in the Cook County Jail simply because they are poor and cannot afford bail,” said Cook County Public Defender Amy P. Campanelli. “Chief Judge Evans’ administrative order follows the law while helping to ensure that when bail is set, it is affordable. This order requires that bail not be oppressive, and must be considerate of the financial ability of the accused. I commend Chief Judge Evans for taking steps that should result in more of my clients being released so they can return to their families, jobs and communities.”
Saying, “I applaud Chief Judge Evans on the groundbreaking order that he has issued,” Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia added that to his knowledge “no chief judge of Cook County (or for that matter, any county in Illinois) has ever issued any order of this sort. It is an extraordinary and significant step towards the critical and constitutionally mandated goal of ending the longstanding practice of jailing presumptively innocent persons prior to trial because they are too poor to post cash bail.”
As part of this significant change to the process, Chief Judge Evans will also create a new division of the court specifically for initial bail proceedings, effective September 18, 2017. The establishment of a new division, with a presiding judge to oversee it, will allow the court to further examine and enhance bail-setting procedures. All judges will have the opportunity to request assignment to the new division.
If a judge finds that a defendant’s future court attendance can only be accomplished by setting a monetary bail, Chief Judge Evans’ order lays out procedures for the court to follow that will assist the judge in setting a bail that the defendant can afford to pay. For the first time, court staff and judges will be required to inquire into the ability of a defendant to pay a bail amount.
For the defendant to be released, the judge must also find that the defendant does not present a danger to the community. Judges also have the discretion to release defendants on individual recognizance bonds or electronic monitoring, which do not require the defendant to pay money to be released. Defendants who are found to be a danger to a person or the community, after a bail hearing, will be held in jail without bond.