Timothy C. Evans, chief judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., announced Monday that Cook County judges will be required to set affordable monetary bonds for defendants who do not pose a danger to the public.
As of Sept. 18, judges will be prohibited from setting bond higher than what felony defendants can afford, and the same will be true of misdemeanor offenders beginning in January, the Chicago Tribune reports.
As previously reported on The Root, a federal court ruling in Harris County, Texas, determined that it is fundamentally unfair to detain indigent people arrested for low-level offenses simply because they cannot afford bail. Many have criticized the cash bond system as unfairly and disproportionately affecting the poor.
With this move, Cook County joins Harris County as well as Maryland, New Mexico and Arizona, all of which have had court rule changes that require judges to set monetary bonds based on the defendant’s ability to pay.
“I think we will see some remarkable changes in the days ahead,” Evans told the Tribune in a telephone interview. “ … I think people who are arrested will be given the full recognition that they are presumed innocent.”
According to the Tribune, there is already a state law in place that requires judges to consider the defendant’s financial circumstances when bail is being set, but under the new system, there will be an interview with the defendant to determine his or her financial resources prior to the bond hearing. That information will be provided to the judge, who must then take it into consideration and set a bond that the defendant can afford to pay.
Judges will also be able to order defendants to be released on their own recognizance or assign them to electronic monitoring. If a judge determines that the defendant poses a threat to the public or may not show up to the court date, the judge still has the option of denying bail altogether.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.