Chief Judge Evans’ Issues Court Rule Aimed at Ending Money Bail

Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans has announced a new rule for judges making bond decisions in Cook County that should dramatically decrease the use of money bond and as a result, pretrial incarceration. The new rule (General Order 18.A) instructs judges to do 3 things:
1 – Find out how much, if anything, someone accused of a crime could pay for bond;
2 – Set bond only in that amount or less; and
3 – Review all cases in which someone hasn’t posted that bond within 7 days.

If implemented well and followed by judges, the rule could dramatically decrease the number of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail. Currently, 62% of people in CCJ are there only because they cannot post bonds. In practice, these more than 4,000 people are being incarcerated pretrial for being poor. Most of their bail hearings were held in less than a minute, and without consideration of their resources as required by current Illinois state law.

The rule is set to be effective September 18, 2017 for people charged with felonies (which includes almost everyone in the jail) and January 1, 2018 for people charged with misdemeanors. Under the new process, everyone in Cook County Jail because they cannot pay a bond should be released without having to pay money at all, have a new bond set in a lower amount that they can pay and be released, or be given a full detention hearing with all the due process protections that come with that. Vigilant oversight will be needed to ensure people are not detained at higher rates than they are now.

Since our formation, Chicago Community Bond Fund has campaigned for the elimination of money bond because it is the primary cause of pretrial detention in Cook County, and it is fundamentally unfair. As the new rule begins to take effect, we will continue to accept requests for help paying bond and evaluating whether or not judges are following the order. We will also continue to advocate for people accused of crimes and their families, including pushing back against onerous pretrial conditions of surveillance and control such as house arrest, electronic monitoring, drug testing, and pretrial curfews.

As more people are released pretrial, we anticipate an increase in the use of these harmful conditions and increased jail admissions based on alleged “violations.” CCBF opposes pretrial punishment in all its forms and will continue to support people involved in the criminal legal system so that they can survive and thrive with as little interference as possible.

Like all reforms, this tentative victory is the result of outside pressure on the criminal legal system. This order is a direct response to the pressure of a lawsuit that threatens to declare Cook County’s money bail system unconstitutional. Even the Department of Justice has stated that jailing people only because they do not have money is constitutionally unacceptable. At the same time, grassroots movements demanding criminal legal system reform, including the Movement for Black Lives, have generated nationwide momentum for bail reform. Cook County is no different. This victory, when it comes time to claim it, will belong to all of us. Thank you for your support.

You can read Chief Judge Evans’s press release here.

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