Judge Defies General Order 18.8A & State Law By Setting $300,000 Bond

Nearly two and a half years after General Order 18.8A went into effect in September 2017, judges continue to discriminate against people living in poverty by setting unaffordable bonds. The general order prohibits judges from setting money bonds in amounts that people cannot afford to pay, but some judges disregard the order and the underlying state and federal law.

A particularly egregious money bond was recently set by Judge Susana Ortiz. On December 23, 2019, Judge Ortiz set Marciano White’s bond at $300,000 D. That requires Mr. White—or more likely a family member—to pay $30,000 to secure his release from Cook County Jail, all while he is supposedly presumed innocent. Mr. White is now one of the more than 1,500 people we estimate to be currently incarcerated in Cook County Jail for no reason other than their inability to pay a bond.

Judge Ortiz’s bond order is made all the more disturbing by the almost undeniable inference that her decision was based not on the law but on public attention given to the case. Mr. White was arrested in relation to a highly-publicized incident that occurred in late December in which 13 people were injured by gunfire. He is not even alleged to be one of the shooters. 

Mr. White’s bond is set drastically higher than most people facing similar charges, and most people overall. Between July and September 2019, just 12.3% of people in Cook County criminal courts were ordered to pay more than $5,000 in bond.

This is yet another case of judges violating the law to make what amounts to a political statement, all at the expense of an accused person. During the bond hearing, Judge Ortiz ironically agreed with Mr. White’s attorney that it would be unjustified to deny him pretrial release by holding him “no bond.” However, the judge obviously knows that Maricano will in all likelihood be unable to pay $30,000, effectively denying him freedom while pretending to have made a decision authorizing his release. Indeed, as of February 4, 2020, Mr. White remains incarcerated in Cook County Jail. 

A similar situation arose when Edward Brown, accused only of reckless discharge of a firearm and possession of a gun without a license, was saddled with a $200,000 D-Bond, much higher than other bonds for similar charges and circumstances. This was simply because he was charged in relation to the high-profile deaths of two police officers who were hit by a commuter train, which he had no personal involvement in. CCBF proudly worked with Mr. Brown’s family to pay his bond and help lessen the coercion of his pending case.

It is no secret that judges setting bonds around the county, state, and country continually neglect the value of the lives of people living in poverty, Black and Brown people, and other marginalized people. At any given time, there are hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. who are jailed indefinitely without having been convicted of a crime, solely because they cannot afford to pay a bond. When judges exploit poverty to score political points, in blatant disregard for the law and with zero consequences, it is yet another example of how the criminal system is designed to punish and isolate marginalized people. It shows us that the system is functioning exactly as intended. It is time to abolish money bond in Illinois. Learn more and join our movement here.

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