Springfield, IL - The new Coalition of Public Safety (COPS) is making a statement against Gov. JB Pritzker's goal to end cash bail during this legislative session. They claim eliminating cash bail won't make the criminal justice system more equitable. While many Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups have joined the Governor's call to end the practice, members of the coalition say it won't make communities safer. Illinois Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Jim Kaitschuk believes any changes to the current bail system would directly impact law enforcement.
"We're all in for prevention and treatment - all in," said Kaitschuk. "But let's not go to this extreme and eliminate cash bail before we've set up systems that are going to be able to handle people. Where are people supposed to go for help?"
Members of COPS also addressed concerns for victims of crimes, who will have to live in fear of their offenders being released and committing more crimes. Ed Wojcicki, Executive Director for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, says "voices of victims of crimes are going to be set aside." The Coalition also mentioned lawmakers want to follow other states that have ended the practice, but New York has seen a significant rise in crime since eliminating cash bail.
"That's not what I want to see done in Illinois."
Members say they just want a seat at the table to negotiate with the Governor.
"That's not what I want to see done in Illinois. I think we need to meet somewhere in the middle," said McDonough County Sheriff Nick Petitgout. "Letting everyone out and eliminating the process...there's always these unintended consequences."
The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police mentioned budget cuts have already stretched police forces to the limit. They feel ending cash bail would add unnecessary, dangerous work to their shifts. "Cash bail is a layer of protection for law-abiding citizens, but it's also an effective way to keep police from having to chase down the same offenders multiple times," said Chris Southwood, Illinois Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge President.
A top priority
Kaitschuk says the group has already talked with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who oppose the Governor's plan. Pritzker announced ending cash bail as one of his top priorities for criminal justice reform on January 9. He said the system "disproportionately forces low-income people of color into a destructive cycle of unearned detention and instability."
Pritzker went on to explain, "The cost of putting people in jail and having them sit there because they don't have the $200 or $500 for bail is a cost to taxpayers that we ought to eliminate."
Lawmakers held their first hearing to discuss the criminal justice reforms on February 13. Co-Chairs for the Joint Commission say there will be more discussions held across the state.