On Feb. 4, organizers, policy experts and State Senator Rober Peters will be coming together for a virtual event celebrating the passage of the Pretrial Fairness Act, a key component of the Illinois Legislative Black caucus' criminal justice omnibus bill (HB 3653 SFA2). The Pretrial Fairness Act, written by advocates and organizers with Coalition to End Money Bond and the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice ends the state's use of money bond and transforms the state's pretrial justice system. When the historic legislation goes into effect in January 2023, Illinois will become the first state in the nation to completely eradicate the use of money bond. Through a combination of panel discussions and presentations from policy experts and advocates, the event will break down how this monumental legislation was passed and what the changes coming to Illinois pretrial justice system will mean for communities across the state.
"Illinois has decided that poverty will not be the sole justification for incarceration and has just taken the necessary steps to end a policy that has devastated communities all across Illinois for decades," said Sharone Mitchell, Director of Illinois Justice Project, a member organization of the Coalition to End Money Bond and the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice.
More than a quarter of a million people are incarcerated in Illinois' county jails every year, with 90% of them locked up while awaiting trial. A majority of people incarcerated pretrial in Illinois are there only because they can't afford to pay a money bond. The Pretrial Fairness Act will impact tens of thousands of people every year in Illinois who have been denied their freedom only because of the size of their bank account. For decades, wealth-based pretrial incarceration has destabilized communities across Illinois by causing people to lose their jobs, housing, and even custody of their children. This destabilization has in turn made communities less safe, while claiming to be done in the name of public safety. The Pretrial Fairness Act will ensure that no one is caged in the state of Illinois simply because can not afford to pay a money bond.
"So many people have lost jobs, housing, and so much more, not because they've been found to be a danger to anyone's safety but because of the size of their bank account. This system has prioritized access to wealth over public safety for far too long, and it has caused irreparable harm to communities across our state as a result. By passing the Pretrial Fairness Act, we are bringing an end to the archaic practice of money bond that has caused so much damage to Black and Brown communities in particular," said State Senator Robert Peters of Illinois' 13th District.
Since 2016, communities across Illinois have been rigorously organizing to end money bail. These efforts, led by the Coalition to End Money Bond and (since 2019) the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, brought together impacted communities, advocates, attorneys, and organizers to build a movement that has brought wealth-based pretrial incarceration to an end through the passage of the Pretrial Fairness Act. A diverse array of organizations have come out in support of the legislation, from racial justice activists to former law enforcement officials and advocates against domestic violence and sexual assault. More than 100 activists, community, legal organizations and unions have endorsed the legislation which will have a dramatic effect on the state's pretrial criminal legal system.
What: Defending Pretrial Freedom in Illinois: How Organizing Ended Money Bond & Next Steps For Our Communities
Who: State Senator Robert Peters, Sharone Mitchell (Illinois Justice Project), Patrice James (Shriver Center), Sharlyn Grace (Chicago Community Bond Fund), Nick Encalada-Malinowski (VOCAL-NY), Marie Franklin (United Congregations of Metro East) and more.
When: Thursday, Feb.4, 2021 at 6 p.m.
Where: fb.com/endmoneybond .
The Coalition to End Money Bond formed in May 2016 as a group of member organizations with the shared goal of stopping the large-scale jailing of people simply because they were unable to pay a money bond. In addition to ending the obvious unfairness of allowing access to money to determine who is incarcerated and who is free pending trial, the Coalition is committed to reducing the overall number of people in Cook County Jail and under pretrial supervision as part of a larger fight against mass incarceration. The Coalition to End Money Bond is tackling bond reform and the abolition of money bond as part of its member organizations' larger efforts to achieve racial and economic justice for all residents of Cook County. The Coalition to End Money Bond is hosted by Chicago Community Bond Fund.
In July 2019, the Coalition to End Money Bond launched a new statewide effort: The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice. The Network serves to connect organizations working to reduce pretrial incarceration in Illinois and, more broadly, to end mass incarceration and address the root causes of socio-economic and racial inequity in our legal system. By sharing information about local efforts, generating opportunities for collaboration, and developing shared strategies, we generate more power and leverage our local work to achieve transformative pretrial policy changes for all Illinoisans.