Cook County Announces Preparedness for the Pretrial Fairness Act’s New Procedures

Beginning Monday, Illinois is set to become the first state to completely do away with the use of money bonds and adopt a more equitable system for pretrial detention grounded in safety, not access to money. Under the new law, money will no longer be a condition of release.

On September 18th, Illinois will implement the Pretrial Fairness Act, marking a profound departure from the use of monetary bonds. This sweeping legislation is designed to overhaul pretrial procedures, to enhance transparency in decisions pertaining to release and detention. Cook County reports that it is ready to implement all aspects of the Act, including the introduction of new initial appearance and detention hearing processes.

Since the Pretrial Fairness Act was signed into law on February 2021 as part of the comprehensive SAFE-T Act, Cook County’s court system stakeholders have engaged in an unprecedented and collaborative planning process. Their primary aim has been to ensure Cook County’s readiness to effectively implement this groundbreaking legislation. As the pivotal date of September 18 approaches, leaders within Cook County have stated their intention to remain united in their commitment to a seamless and successful launch of these new procedures and hearing processes.

“As a result of nearly two years of thoughtful and collaborative preparation, Cook County is ready to implement the new procedures required by the Pretrial Fairness Act,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “We are immensely proud of the collaboration that has brought us here and we stand united as we move into this new phase of increased pretrial fairness. As our court system transitions to the new procedures, my administration will continue to provide resources and support to ensure our continued success.”

The implementation planning process in Cook County has been characterized by proactive participation and collaborative problem-solving. This initiative has brought together representatives from each of the County’s criminal justice agencies, fostering consistent working groups that collaborate closely with local law enforcement, advocacy groups and community representatives. Beyond the initial implementation phase, these working groups will continue to meet, stating their intention to identify and uphold best practices while promptly addressing any nuances and challenges in a collaborative manner.

“With the elimination of cash bail, Cook County stands as a beacon of justice where decisions are made on safety, not dollars. Together, with all our agencies and community stakeholders, we are confident in the successful rollout and the enduring positive impact of the Pretrial Fairness Act,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

“The judges and staff of the Circuit Court of Cook County are fully prepared to fairly implement the requirements of the Pretrial Fairness Act. We will work with all stakeholders, as well as with litigants and lawyers who appear before us, to follow the law and both ensure justice for the accused and promote safety in the community,” said Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans.

“As we embark on the historic implementation of the Pretrial Fairness Act here in Illinois, our office is fully prepared and will continue to engage and participate in the collaborative planning process with all of our criminal justice partners to ensure there is a successful outcome. We remain committed to serving the residents of Cook County and the participants in the judicial system in an efficient, equitable, and ethical manner,” said Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Iris Y. Martinez.

Following the Illinois Supreme Court’s July 18 decision to uphold the Pretrial Fairness Act, Cook County’s criminal legal system agencies actively engaged and informed staff in meetings, trainings and interagency court scenario walkthroughs. These efforts were conducted to ensure countywide preparedness for implementation by allowing court stakeholders to collaboratively troubleshoot new processes and confirm logistical details.

“The Cook County Public Defender’s Office welcomes this new day of greater pretrial fairness for the clients we represent. We are proud of the extensive interagency efforts to prepare the county’s criminal legal system for implementation of the law. Our office has created a Pretrial Division to staff Initial Appearances and Detention Hearings, and our expert criminal defense attorneys and other staff are fully trained in the law and the new processes,” said Cook County Public Defender Sharone R. Mitchell, Jr.

“The full implementation of the Pretrial Fairness Act does not simply end the use of money bond as a condition of pretrial release, but it initiates a more equitable pretrial process designed to be more fair, transparent and effective,” said Avik Das, Executive Director of the Justice Advisory Council. “As we transition to the implementation phase, we will continue to work closely with Cook County’s court stakeholder agencies as well as partners from the research, advocacy and system-impacted communities. We will continue to observe and improve how our system functions, to best serve the residents and communities of Cook County.”

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