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Pretrial services in Illinois – The long road from 1986-2023

1/26/2022

By Marcia M. Meis, Director

In 340 days, on January 1, 2023, the Pretrial Fairness Act provisions of P.A. 101-652 become effective. This Act makes many changes to Illinois’ Code of Criminal Procedure, including abolishing cash bail and replacing it with an “in or out” system. The success of this significant change in Illinois law is dependent on comprehensive and supportive pretrial services existing in every county to support defendants released pretrial and to ensure the safety of communities throughout Illinois. The Court’s establishment of the Supreme Court Pretrial Practices Implementation Task Force (Task Force) and the Office of Statewide Pretrial Services (OSPS) will ensure the existence of these critical pretrial services throughout Illinois.

Pretrial reforms in Illinois and across the county began long before P.A. 101-652.

On May 22, 1986, HB3573 was called for a vote before the Illinois House of Representatives. In urging passage of this bill that contained the Illinois Pretrial Services Act, Chief Sponsor John Cullerton emphasized that the creation of pretrial services agencies was “going to have the effect of having people who should not be incarcerated not have to be because other conditions will be set.” House floor debate, May 26, 1986, p. 109. The bill passed the House on a vote of 65-47.

On May 26, 1987, the United State’s Supreme Court rendered its decision in United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 793, and upheld the Bail Reform Act of 1984. In its opinion, Chief Justice William Rehnquist stated “[i]n our society liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial, or without trial, is the carefully limited exception.”

Thirty-six days later, on July 1, 1987, Illinois’ Pretrial Services Act (PA84-1449) became effective and required each circuit court to establish a pretrial services agency “to provide the court with accurate background data regarding the pretrial release of persons charged with felonies and effective supervision of compliance with the terms and conditions imposed on release.” 725 ILCS 185/1.

Today, 34 years since the passage of the Pretrial Services Act, much of our state remains without pretrial services agencies. To address the significant service gaps that exist throughout Illinois, an amendment to the Pretrial Services Act was sought to allow the Court to establish these critically important pretrial services to serve and support the judiciary, stakeholders and communities in Illinois.

On January 5, 2022, the Illinois House of Representatives concurred on Senate Amendment #1 to HB3512 with a vote of 67-42. This bill contained the most significant and substantive amendment to the Illinois Pretrial Services Act (725 ILCS 185/0.01 et seq.) since it’s July 1, 1987 effective date. Pursuant to this amendment, a new section 1.5 of the Act is created which authorizes the Illinois Supreme Court to establish a framework that facilitates the hiring and training of new State-employed pretrial services personnel to serve circuit courts or counties without existing pretrial services agencies as required by Section 1.

On January 7th, Governor Pritzker signed this bill, with its immediate effective date, into law. Public Act 102-694 statutorily authorizes the Court to establish comprehensive pretrial services in counties without the pretrial services required pursuant to the Illinois Pretrial Services Act.

This fall, OSPS Director Cara LeFevour Smith worked with Chief Circuit Judges to identify the counties without pretrial services for priority during Phase 1. Based on this process, OSPS will provide comprehensive pretrial services, consistent with the requirements of Illinois’ Pretrial Services Act, 725 ILCS 185, et seq. (Act) in 63 of Illinois’ 102 counties by January 1, 2023. This Year 1 “footprint” encompasses 15 judicial circuits, 30,932 square miles, and incudes a population of 1,607,868 Illinois residents. During 2019, there were 33,093 criminal case filings in these 63 counties. During 2023, it is estimated that OSPS will prepare approximately 27,000 bond reports and risk assessments and supervise approximately 19,000 defendants.

Never in Illinois history has the existence of comprehensive pretrial services been more critical than they are today and, in the days and months leading up to and after January 1, 2023.

The Supreme Court, the Task Force and the OSPS are committed to establishing a pretrial services system that will support the significant and wide-reaching mandates of P.A. 101-652 and to do so in a manner that fosters public and community safety, while ensuring constitutional safeguards. The Supreme Court encourages anyone with questions regarding the Office of Statewide Pretrial Services or the Implementation Task Force to reach out to Director Smith at clefevoursmith@illinoiscourts.gov; or the Honorable Judge Robbin Stuckert (retired) at rstuckert@illinoiscourts.gov.