If you don’t have $5,000 to make bond, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle may want to give you a Get Out of Jail Free card.
On Thursday, Preckwinkle appeared on Chicago Tonight to argue for reforming bond court, making it easier for indigent non-violent offenders to go free before trial.
Of the 9,400 inmates in the Cook County Jail, 2,000 are there $50,000 bond or less, Preckwinkle said. That’s 2,000 accused criminals who can’t come up with $5,000 in cash. The low-risk prisoners cost the county $143 a day.
Timothy Evans, chief judge of the Circuit Court, appeared on the program with Preckwinkle. Evans proposed a Motion to Reconsider Court for prisoners who don’t have money for bond. The prisoners could be released on their own recognizance, given a lower bond, or supervised with electronic monitoring.
A Justice Advisory Council report delivered to Preckwinkle’s office found that the public defender, the state’s attorney, the sheriff’s department and the judges haven’t been sharing the information necessary to make decisions on bond cases. Preckwinkle wants to organize the process, so files reach judges more quickly.
“The bond court is the entry point to our criminal justice system, and when we looked at it, we realized that people have been working in silos rather than working together,” Preckwinkle said.
“We have a number of people in jail who have relatively modest bonds, so we’re trying to figure out how we can deal with this population in a way that is both humane and effective,” she added.