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Cash Bail

bond-courtEvery night, a large number of people are detained in Cook County Jail–not because they’re a serious threat or aren’t likely to show up in court, but only because they don’t have the money for bail. While they’re held in jail pending trial, some lose their jobs, experience a disruption in their education, or simply are unavailable to meet family obligations. As a result, low-income people who can’t make bail have an incentive to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit. This may get them home sooner, but leaves them with a criminal record that will follow them all their lives.  It is our view that decisions regarding who is released from jail should be based on how great a safety or flight risk a detainee is, not how much money a person has.

Together with other advocates, BPI is exploring ways to eliminate the system of money bail. We’re examining how other jurisdictions are making the change from a cash-based approach to an evidence-based risk assessment approach. We plan to advocate for similar reforms in Cook County and around the State.

The system itself is not working. We need to change that so it’s not a system that cares about how wealthy you are, or whether you have access to drug money or gang money. It’s a question of whether you’re violent or not.”

–Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart



Recipient of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions

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