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Voice of the Reader: Changing double standard

Voice of the Reader: Changing double standard

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To the Editor:

The Constitution’s most important guarantee is a citizen who is arrested is only charged, and is cloaked in the presumption of innocence.

When poor citizens are arrested and charged with a crime, many are jailed waiting for trial because they cannot afford cash bail. People with money usually get out of jail. The new Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act changes this double standard by ending cash bail.

The poor citizen who stays locked up may be forced further into poverty by losing a job, an apartment or even parental rights. Southern Illinois police departments and prosecutors are against the change. But when cash bail is gone, will our communities be at higher risk?

When Philadelphia ended cash bail, poor people were released, they showed back up to court and recidivism did not go up. The New York Times reports, in Illinois, “judges will be presented with evidence to determine what kind of risk releasing a defendant poses to the community.”

If the defendant “poses a real and present threat to the physical safety of any person or persons” the judge will not allow release. Our judges will consider: the crime charged and its level of violence; weapon use or potential access to a weapon; the defendant’s history; and the age and physical condition of the alleged victim.

An honest judicial assessment will be key. The ability to pay cash bail will not matter. Poor people will not stay locked up for being poor.

Ted Gianaris




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