June 23 , 2017
On June 9, 2017, Governor Rauner signed Public Act 100-0001 into law. This Act makes numerous amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, implementing various reforms to the bail system in Illinois. While many implementation details remain to be resolved, the Act further codifies that defendants have a right to counsel at bail hearings, reaffirms the presumption that the court impose the least restrictive conditions necessary to reasonably assure the defendant's appearance at future hearings and safeguard the public while preserving the integrity of judicial proceedings. An additional component of the Act "encourages" the Illinois Supreme Court to adopt a statewide risk assessment tool to use in bail proceedings which measures risk of failure to appear at future hearings and/or commit a new offense while on pretrial release. The bail-related portions of the Act are effective on Jan. 1, 2018.
Under the direction and leadership of the Supreme Court of Illinois and the chief circuit judges, many of our trial courts have well-established and robust pretrial service programs to aid their local jurisdictions in the delivery of pretrial criminal justice. This has occurred notwithstanding chronic underfunding by the State of Illinois of the statutorily based pretrial funding requirements. In calendar year 2016 for example, Illinois probation and pretrial officers conducted over 48,000 bond investigations for the trial courts and were responsible for the post-release supervision of over 19,000 defendants. Twenty-two counties in 18 of Illinois' 24 circuits have dedicated probation and/or pretrial officers performing these critical functions – 15 of the counties have implemented the use of a pretrial risk assessment instrument. The Supreme Court is engaged in an active analysis and piloting of the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) instrument while also monitoring and exploring the Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument (VPRAI) which is used in several circuits.
In April, the Supreme Court of Illinois published its Policy Statement on Pretrial Services. The Policy reflects and seeks to balance a number of foundational principles that are of paramount importance to the Court. The first of these is the presumed innocence of the accused, which is the cornerstone of our nation's criminal justice system. The second principle is a commitment to preserving and protecting the exercise of judicial discretion. The third principle of the Policy is to equip Illinois judges with the best possible tools and support in the exercise of their discretion. To that end, the Policy notes that our pretrial system includes the use of an evidence-based and validated risk assessment tool to assist the judiciary. The Court's Policy notes that people who are low risk and non-violent should not remain in pretrial custody solely because they cannot afford bail.
With the merge of the Policy into local practice, the support of intergovernmental stakeholders and the addition of adequate resources, Illinois can remain at the forefront of our nation's improvement in the transparency, fairness and efficiencies of our criminal justice system.