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Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

What’s next for the Office of Statewide Pretrial Services


By Marcia M. Meis, Director, Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts

As anyone who is even tangentially involved with the Illinois state courts is aware, the past six months since the September 2023 effective date of what is often called the Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA) have brought transformative change to the criminal pretrial system in Illinois. Thanks to the massive undertaking by the Illinois courts, at all levels, to proactively prepare for this moment, key court stakeholders – judges, state and defense counsel, pretrial officers, clerks, and others charged with implementation – were ready on day one.

With the Illinois Supreme Court’s leadership through rule changes, operational enhancements, and education efforts, the Illinois Appellate Court and Circuit Courts statewide have done a remarkable job adapting to the sweeping changes and significant ongoing challenges.

Today I highlight another key component of statewide court readiness to implement the PFA - the Supreme Court’s incredible foresight in creating the Office of Statewide Pretrial Services (OSPS).

Way back in the 1980’s, the Illinois General Assembly created the Pretrial Services Act to require that “[e]ach circuit court shall 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.” Largely due to a lack of local resources, many jurisdictions throughout our state never established a pretrial services agency.

Among other things, the initial passage of the SAFE-T Act in 2021 brought a renewed focus on these jurisdictions that clearly would be unequipped to implement the requirements of the Act. Seeing the urgency of this issue, the Illinois Supreme Court established the Office of Statewide Pretrial Services (OSPS) in August 2021 to provide pretrial services in counties without a pretrial services delivery system, thereby supporting the significant and wide-reaching mandates of the PFA in a manner that fosters public and community safety while ensuring constitutional safeguards.

The Supreme Court had the good fortune of appointing former Cook County Judge Cara LeFevour Smith to lead this effort. Under her leadership, Director Smith quickly grew OSPS to a staff of nearly 200 pretrial professionals across Illinois. OSPS is presently operational in 73 Illinois counties, covering 37,000 square miles and serving over 3 million Illinois residents. The dedicated professionals in OSPS have provided critical support to courts, stakeholders, and defendants throughout the 73 Illinois counties it serves.

OSPS operates a 24/7 Operations Center in Springfield and has offices in counties throughout Illinois. Since beginning operations in July 2022, OSPS staff has completed nearly 30,000 pretrial investigations, supervised over 9,000 pretrial individuals and provided defendants with more than 18,000 court date reminders. The volume of work managed by an office that is less than two years old is simply remarkable and is a tribute to Director Smith’s astute and effective leadership inspiring the dedication of talented and committed staff.

While OSPS has been supported by the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts which served as an “incubator” to stand up this new office, OSPS has well established itself as a solid and proven operation that is ready to operate as a stand-alone office within the Illinois judicial branch of government. Accordingly, HB 4621 has been introduced in the Illinois General Assembly this session to establish OSPS as an independent agency within the Judicial Branch.

With the abolishment of cash bail, Illinois’ criminal justice system is under a national spotlight. The existence of comprehensive statewide pretrial services has never been more critical, and it is essential that successful implementation of the PFA continue. I am confident that, by becoming an established, independent office, OSPS will be a permanent resource to support our judges and justice stakeholders in bringing to life the longstanding vision and promise of the Pretrial Services Act as a key component of our Illinois criminal justice system.