Debunking Fake News about the Pretrial Fairness Act
We know many of you have seen the incredibly harmful, anti-Black, racist, and classist lies from paper mailers and social media about the Pretrial Fairness Act. We want to ensure that you have support and resources for conversations with your friends, family, coworkers, and network to spread the truth about this historic legislation. This is a time for the power of collective action to shift the narrative and protect the wins of our movement!
Read below for ways to respond to questions or concerns about the Pretrial Fairness Act.
What is the Pretrial Fairness Act?
- The Pretrial Fairness Act is an Illinois law passed in January 2021 to end the practice of jailing people before their trial just because they are unable to pay for their freedom.
- The Pretrial Fairness Act is set to abolish money bond in January 2023, replacing the current wealth-based system with a more fair system that does not treat people differently based on their ability to pay.
When and how was the Pretrial Fairness Act passed?
- Signed into law in February 2021, the Pretrial Fairness Act was developed through years of studying national best practices and was crafted in partnership with policy experts, impacted people, legislators, and system stakeholders. Versions of the law were introduced in the legislature as early as 2019, and ending money bond was the subject of several subject matter hearings in the state legislature.
- It was passed in the wake of the 2020 uprisings that called for racial justice and deep changes to the criminal legal system. This built on a long movement in Illinois, where CCBF, our partners in the Coalition to End Money Bond, and allied community members organized to win local policy reforms in Cook County to decrease the devastation that wealth-based pretrial jailing has caused to Black, Brown, and poor communities.
So how are release decisions made under the Pretrial Fairness Act?
- Under the Pretrial Fairness Act, release will be more common, although judges will still have the ability to incarcerate people before trial when they consider someone accused of a serious offense to pose a specific, real threat to a person. We don’t believe that incarceration is a true safety solution, but the Pretrial Fairness Act is a step towards abolition because it will significantly reduce the number of people incarcerated before trial and does restore the presumption of innocence.
How will this promote community safety?
- Our current system of jailing people before trial does not promote safety, it actually prevents it. Pretrial incarceration can make people more likely to be arrested in the future, even when they are ultimately found innocent. Incarceration destabilizes people’s lives. Decreasing pretrial incarceration allows people to maintain relationships, jobs, housing, and stability in their lives while awaiting trial – our communities will be safer as a result.
- Pretrial reform has been implemented with success in various places without any negative impact on community safety. Data repeatedly shows that crime rates do not go up when use of money bond and pretrial incarceration goes down. Through pretrial reforms that already happened, the number of people in Cook County Jail decreased by more than 40% without a rise in crime. Researchers also found no significant change in rearrest or court appearance rates after Cook County implemented pretrial reforms in 2017.
- True safety comes from everyone having access to housing, nutritious food, quality healthcare, affordable childcare, reliable transportation, and economic opportunity, not imprisonment, punishment, and surveillance.
Who is behind disinformation about the Pretrial Fairness Act?
- Disinformation about the law is a part of a multi-million dollar smear campaign funded by billionaire, right-wing, Trump-supporting political operatives Dan Proft and Dick Uihlein. They are spreading misinformation about this law to try to scare voters into supporting their Republican candidate of choice, Darren Bailey, in the fall election for governor.
- The Pretrial Fairness Act is also predictably opposed by conservatives, prosecutors, and police who benefit from the current racist and classist criminal legal system. The current system allows them excessive power to arrest and incarcerate people pretrial without limitations as they build careers on arrest quotas and conviction rates that do nothing to create community safety.
Ways to shift the narrative and take action
- Tell your legislator you want them to see the Pretrial Fairness Act through to implementation.
- Amplify posts from CCBF (facebook | twitter | instagram) and the Coalition to End Money Bond (facebook | twitter | instagram) across social media platforms, and create your own posts, too!
- Engage in conversations with people in your circles to dispel myths and directly ask what people think and feel themselves (not just what they heard). We can cultivate spaces for critical thinking together.
- Share stories of people directly impacted by the system (such as Flo, Lavette, Miguel, and Jason) and humanize the experiences of trauma and harm caused by incarceration and surveillance.
Further reading to share and discuss with your community
- This report by the Coalition to End Money Bond, on bond reforms that have already been implemented successfully in Cook County. The jail population has decreased safely already.
- The Pretrial Fairness website, which includes data, fact sheets, informational videos, and more about this historic legislation.