A bipartisan group of Illinois state’s attorneys from around the state say Armageddon is coming to the criminal justice system with the implementation of the SAFE-T Act.
The Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today Act includes several reforms in many areas of the criminal justice system, including pre-arrest diversion, policing, pretrial, sentencing, and corrections. The measures were pushed through the General Assembly by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and passed in the middle of the night with very little debate in January 2021.
During a briefing for the media Tuesday, several state’s attorneys shared concerns about the measure Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last year.
One of the provisions that appears to alarm law enforcement officials the most is the ending of cash bail Jan. 1. The state’s attorneys said bail reform will have violent offenders let out with a higher burden of proof required to hold them before trial
“This is reality,” one state’s attorney said. “With this new law, our hands will be tied. What sane citizen in this state of Illinois would want the state’s attorney’s hands tied, the police hands tied, and give all the perks going to violent offenders. That’s what this law does.”
Another state’s attorney said it’s unclear how the law could be challenged in the courts, but that could come from a victim claiming their rights were violated by the act.
Critics argue eliminating bail contradicts previously established law and places crime victims at a greater risk to be re-victimized, and unnecessarily subjects witnesses to threats and intimidation.
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus released a statement earlier this year on Republican efforts to repeal the SAFE-T Act.
“Many provisions of the SAFE-T Act have not even gone into effect yet, proving the Republican gambit is all for show. In fact, when fully implemented, experts say the SAFE-T Act will help improve public safety by supporting a more holistic approach for first-responders. Instead of coming up with solutions to address crime, Republicans are just trying the same racial scare tactics we see across the country,” the statement said.
By Kevin Bessler