In Illinois, Officials Trying to “Opt Out” of Bail Reform

In Illinois, as in many other states, bail reform was intended to allow minor offenders to get out of jail while awaiting trial, and to stop what was seen as unfairly punishing the poor. In reality, many more are staying in jail as they await their trials, and politicians are looking to do something about it.

Dangerous Situation

Illinois’ bail reform act took effect on January 1, 2018. McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally and state Rep. Steve Reick – a Republican from Woodstock – are now working on a bill that would allow the county and other areas in the state with populations under 3 million to opt out of the new bail requirements.

“If what we’re going to do is put that toothpaste back in the tube or maybe relook at that issue down the road, the best thing to do is go back to the status quo …” Reick said. “And if there are tweaks that can be made between where we are with the Bail Reform Act and where we are now, let’s take the time to actually explore that …”

One of the chief concerns of many politicians and officials in the state is the issue of opioid addiction. It would seem to be an unrelated topic, but in reality many addicts are finding themselves awaiting trial in jail, detoxing because they can’t get pills, and then overdosing once they get back out on the street – without proper services to help with the addiction. Kenneally is passionate about this issue, and is pushing for detox and residential treatment options for addicts.

Money is a Concern Too

Nobody wants to bother taxpayers even more, even in Illinois. But that seems to be what’s happening with the new bail reform system. Notes Dan Wallis, McHenry County Court Administrator:

If what you see is less cash bonds, then that money won’t be held. At the end, we’re sort of going to be getting into this situation where there’s no money to apply to the fees and the fines, and it’s a collection issue.