General Order 18.8A Goes Into Effect for Misdemeanors

General Order 18.8A, which went into effect for people charged with felonies on September 18, 2017, should now be fully implemented in all misdemeanor courts in Cook County as well. This means that no judge in Cook County should be setting money bonds in amounts higher than what a person can pay. The order was issued last year by Chief Judge Evans to eliminate the pretrial incarceration of people based solely on their inability to pay money bond.

As part of the new rule, judges should:

1.Find out how much, if any, money someone accused of a crime can pay for bond;
2.Set any money bonds only in that amount or less; and
3.Review bond amounts for people who haven’t been able to post bond amounts within 7 days. During the review, judges should either reduce the bond amount, release the individual without having to pay anything, or make a reviewable decision to detain them without bond.

Community members have visited felony bond courts since the order first took effect in September to monitor its implementation. Since then, we have consistently seen judges set bond at amounts higher than what a person can afford to pay in direct violation of the order. (For one example, see this report back.)

Additionally, while the General Order has contributed to a decrease in population at the Cook County Jail, there are currently around 3,000 people who remain incarcerated because of their inability to pay bond. Since September, there has not been a concerted effort by the courts to review these individuals’ bond amounts and make a lawful determination on their pretrial release.

Through courtwatching, it is evident that not all judges are following the order and consistently determining how much an individual can pay in bond. Even when they do know how much someone can afford, some judges are still setting bonds in higher amounts and then failing to review high bond amounts within seven days. With the Coalition to End Money Bond, we will continue to push for the full implementation of General Order 18.8A and an end to pretrial incarceration due to inability to pay money bonds.

For more background on the order, click here.

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