HB 3653: Police, Criminal Justice Reforms Bill Passed by Illinois General Assembly

Among the changes is the elimination of monetary bail

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A criminal justice and police reforms bill that would mean the end of cash bail in Illinois and the introduction of new "police accountability" protocols was passed by the General Assembly Wednesday, sending the legislation to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

House Bill 3653, authored by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, was approved by the Senate in an early Wednesday morning vote, then passed the House hours later.

It now heads to the governor, who has expressed his support.

“I have long held that an essential mark of good governance is a willingness to change the laws that have failed the people of Illinois,” Pritzker said in a statement. “This criminal justice package carries with it the opportunity to shape our state into a lesson in true justice for the nation by abolishing cash bail, modernizing sentencing laws, instituting a certification and decertification system for police officers statewide, requiring body cameras, reforming crowd control response, and amplifying law enforcement training standards. I was proud to make ending cash bail and modernizing sentencing laws a legislative priority of my administration, and I have long pledged my support to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus in their efforts to pass not just criminal justice reform and police accountability measures, but also to truly root out the systemic racism that pulses through all our nation’s institutions by pursuing greater equity in healthcare, higher goals in education, and deeper investments in economic opportunity for communities that have for too long been left out and left behind."

Part of the "significant changes" are new police training policies, including crisis intervention and de-escalation tactics, police accountability, transparency in law enforcement and the rights of detainees and prisoners, according to Sen. Elgie R. Sims, Jr., who sponsored the bill.

“I am gratified that the Senate has passed this major reform package, and I believe it is the first step to transforming criminal justice in Illinois in a way that will uplift our communities and support our law enforcement professionals,” Sims said in a statement. “This increases accountability and transparency in law enforcement, modernizes our bail and sentencing systems, and provides for greater protections and more humane treatment of those who have been arrested and accused of crime.”

Among the changes is the elimination of monetary bail, which allows judges to release people before trial, with the exception of those charged with certain felonies or if the accused person presents a risk of harming others or fleeing.

Proponents of the measure argued that the state's current bail system disproportionately affects low-income people of color who are awaiting trial.

“For too long, people in this state have spent time in jail only because they could not afford to pay their bail,” said Sen. Robert Peters, chair of the Senate Black Caucus.

The passage was also praised by Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, who called it a "step in the right direction."

"Eliminating cash bail ends the practice of detaining non-violent offenders simply because they are poor while also preventing violent offenders from being released because they can afford bail," she said in a statement.

But some law enforcement officials opposed the measure.

"We think it will cause problems," said Ed Wojcicki with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. "We understand the rationale for it, but there needs to be a lot more serious concern and a lot more latitude for judges to determine whether someone might be dangerous to society before letting them out on bail."

The package also includes a requirement that all police officers wear body cameras by 2025, a ban on all police chokeholds, new guidelines for "decertification" of police officers, and an end to suspended licenses for failure to pay, among several other changes.

“I am proud that today we have reached our destination and will be implementing meaningful reform that will promote professionalism, increase transparency and restore the public’s trust in law enforcement,” Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement. “I applaud the tireless effort of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to address criminal justice reform in Illinois in a comprehensive manner.”

John Rekowski with the Illinois State Bar Association called it "a bold response."

But Republican Rep. Tom Weber decried the passage, calling it "dangerous."

“I would say I am shocked, but this has become the norm in Springfield – wait until the last moment and then drop a bill that is more than 700 pages on the floor, preventing even a basic level of public review,” Weber said in a statement. “Make no mistake, this legislation is dangerous and makes every community less safe. Public safety budgets will be cut, unfunded mandates will be poured on local communities and police, and officers could be subjected to punishment and held personally liable for unsubstantiated or unverifiable complaints. However, perhaps the worst part, many violent felons will be able to walk free before trial."

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