Illinois Prepares To End Cash Bail

The state of Illinois plans to end cash bail following a controversial law change and court decision. The alteration of the criminal justice statute may lead Illinois down a similar path as New York, which faced an increase in crime after initiating its own bail reform effort.

The change will occur after the state Supreme Court ruled last week that the effort to change the cash bail system was constitutional in a 5-2 vote.

The end of Illinois’ current cash bail system is slated for the ruling’s effective date of Sept. 18. The court ruling means that Illinois will be the only state in the nation to fully remove cash bail. The new law will prohibit judges from requiring bail for suspects in most crimes. 

Judges can only request bail in cases in which the suspect is considered a flight risk or a threat to public safety.

The New York bail reform effort was the brainchild of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), then seen as a rising star within the party. The dramatic set of changes restricted the ability of judges to set bail for a number of crimes.

Following the passage of the 2019 law, crime increased significantly in the state. The law resulted in a sharp decrease in the number of arrests in New York City, even as the city saw a sharp increase in burglaries and murders.

The state has been trying to alter the bail reform law since shortly after it passed. The state legislature has changed the bail statute several times in recent years, including a measure passed earlier this year.

Even after rolling back a significant portion of the bail reform effort, New York still faces higher crime in 2023 than in years past.

According to NYPD statistics, the city saw a small drop in the number of murders as compared to 2022 statistics, but other crimes such as car thefts, increased over the previous year. The overall crime level compared to prior to the pandemic is sharply higher, including 30% more murders than in 2018.