Since 2016, communities across Illinois have been rigorously organizing to end money bond. Today, after years of work by the Coalition to End Money Bond and Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, the state's legislature has voted in support of the Pretrial Fairness Act as included in the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus' criminal justice reform bill, HB 3653 SFA2. Among other things, this bill overhauls the state's pretrial justice system and ends the use of money bond. Governor JB Pritzker is expected to sign the bill into law.
More than a quarter of a million people are incarcerated in Illinois' county jails every year, 90% of them are locked up pretrial and a majority of them are incarcerated only because they can't afford to pay a money bond. For decades, wealth-based incarceration has destabilized communities across Illinois by causing people to lose their jobs, housing, and even custody of their children. The Pretrial Fairness Act will ensure that no person is caged in the state of Illinois simply because can not afford to pay a money bond.
"So many people have lost jobs, housing, and so much more, not because they've been found to be a danger to anyone's safety but because of the size of their bank account. This system has prioritized access to wealth over public safety for far too long, it has caused irreparable harm to communities across our state. By passing the Pretrial Fairness Act, we are bringing an end to the archaic practice of money bond that has caused irreparable harm to our communities," said State Senator Robert Peters of the 13th District.
"In a matter of seconds, a judge set my bond at $25,000. That bond ultimately caused me to be incarcerated for 14 months. I lost my business, my housing, and I nearly lost the custody of my children. Today, I am breathing a sigh of relief knowing that after years of hard of work, no one will have to experience what my family and I went through," said Lavette Mayes of Chicago Community Bond Fund, a member organization of the Coalition to End Money Bond and the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice.
"Today, Illinois decided that poverty would not be the sole justification for incarceration and took the necessary steps to end a policy that has devastated communities all across Illinois for decades," said Sharone Mitchell, Director of Illinois Justice Project, a member organization of the Coalition to End Money Bond and the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice.
"By passing the Pretrial Fairness Act, our elected officials followed the lead of people calling for racial justice and an end to the racist practice of money bond, which drives the mass incarceration of young, Black people are hardest hit by money bond and pretrial jailing," says Kevin Blumenberg of The People's Lobby, a member organization of the Coalition to End Money Bond and the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice. "This is a huge victory for Black and Latinx people in Illinois."
"In East St. Louis, our family members and neighbors are routinely snatched from us and jailed solely because they cannot afford to pay a money bond. This happens even when their cases are just thrown out weeks or months later, and it only hurts our communities when people lose their jobs and are traumatized in this way. Some legislators tried to say that unaffordable money bonds were just a Chicago problem, but the Pretrial Fairness Act is going to change lives in St. Clair and Madison Counties," said Marie Franklin, a community organizer with United Congregations of Metro East, a member organization of the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice.
Sharlyn Grace, Executive Director of Chicago Community Bond Fund, says, "The passage of the Pretrial Fairness Act represents a victory for racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. Here in Illinois, the Coalition to End Money Bond has been working towards this goal for almost five years. Tens of thousands of people have taken action in support of pretrial freedom, whether by traveling to Springfield, calling their legislators, marching, or donating to a bail fund. Today, the Pretrial Fairness Act passed with more than 100 community, social service, and faith-based organizations in support. Illinois has a mandate to abolish money bond."
The Coalition to End Money Bond formed in May 2016 as a group of member organizations with the shared goal of stopping the large-scale jailing of people simply because they were unable to pay a money bond. In addition to ending the obvious unfairness of allowing access to money to determine who is incarcerated and who is free pending trial, the Coalition is committed to reducing the overall number of people in Cook County Jail and under pretrial supervision as part of a larger fight against mass incarceration. The Coalition to End Money Bond is tackling bond reform and the abolition of money bond as part of its member organizations' larger efforts to achieve racial and economic justice for all residents of Cook County. The Coalition to End Money Bond is hosted by Chicago Community Bond Fund.
In July 2019, the Coalition to End Money Bond launched a new statewide effort: The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice. The Network serves to connect organizations working to reduce pretrial incarceration in Illinois and, more broadly, to end mass incarceration and address the root causes of socio-economic and racial inequity in our legal system. By sharing information about local efforts, generating opportunities for collaboration, and developing shared strategies, we generate more power and leverage our local work to achieve transformative pretrial policy changes for all Illinoisans. Our Network is grounded in the Principles of Bond Reform in Illinois, and we support a proposed Supreme Court rule that would end pretrial incarceration in our state.