Sen. Robert Peters

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed a sweeping criminal justice reform package Sunday as part of a larger plan authored by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to rid Illinois of systemic racism. The package included the elimination of cash bail, an issue for which State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) has been fighting for years.

“For too long, people in this state have spent time in jail only because they could not afford to pay their bail,” said Peters, who was recently elected Chair of the Senate Black Caucus. “The end of that practice is near. I’m thrilled that ending cash bail was part of the package we passed today, and I look forward to similar action from the House.”

Earlier this year, Peters filed Senate Bill 4025, known as the Pretrial Fairness Act, which was then folded into the criminal justice reform package. This portion of the bill eliminates cash bail as an option for pretrial detention and provides a presumption of pretrial release for all criminal defendants. The court retains the right to deny release under certain circumstances, pending the outcome of a hearing.

“Being poor is not a crime, end of story,” Peters said. “Folks who have the means to cover their bail don’t spend a minute in jail, while others could be locked up for weeks or even months before their trial begins. This is not a just or equitable system, and I’m proud to have fought for its elimination.”

Peters called attention to the current system’s tendency to discriminate against and place an undue burden onto certain demographics while offering disproportionate leniency to more privileged groups.

“The cash bail practice stands at the intersections of racism, classism and sexism,” Peters continued. “It is a tiered system of safety where if you are poor, but especially if you are Black and poor, and even more so if you are Black, poor, and a woman, then you will have access to different safety, freedom and rights.”

The ending of cash bail came as part of a broader criminal justice reform package. Other notable elements include, but are not limited to:

  • Police body camera requirements;
  • Expansion of rights for inmates and detainees; and
  • Ending the practice of prison gerrymandering.

"It is impossible to win real safety and justice in our communities and achieve true equality until the systems that enable systemic racism are completely dismantled," Peters said. "There is still a lot more work to do, but the comprehensive reform we passed today, which was the result of years of work, is a historic, transformational start. It can be used as a foundation on which we can build a future where everyone in this state can be made whole."

The criminal justice package is House Bill 3653. Having passed the Senate, it now moves to the House for a concurrence vote.