CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–September 14, 2017. Starting on Monday, Sept. 17, advocates from Chicago Community Bond Fund and The Coalition to End Money Bond will be closely monitoring implementation of a new Cook County Court court order requiring that Bond Court judges set bonds only in amounts that people are able to pay. At 12:15 pm, The Coalition to End Money Bond will hold a rally and press conference outside the Cook County Courthouse at 26th Street and California Avenue. Advocates will then observe the impacts of the new order when bond court is convened at 1:30. The new rule could significantly decrease the number of people being incarcerated pretrial in Cook County, reducing the harmful impacts of pretrial incarceration on accused individuals, their families, and their communities.
General Order 18.8A goes into effect on Monday, September 18, 2017 for people charged with felonies and January 1, 2018 for people charged with misdemeanors. CCBF and our partner organizations will be observing Bond Court starting Monday to evaluate whether bond court judges are following the new order and people are no longer jailed simply because they cannot afford to pay their bond. Within 24 hours, pretrial incarceration can significantly harm someone’s employment, housing, and security of their children and other family members.
“I was supposed to be presumed innocent under the law, but just because I did not have $3,000, I was forced to spend nearly three months in Cook County Jail. It was a horrible experience, Cook County Jail is an environment not fit for people. I lost the ability to support myself and to be there for my child. More than a year after I got out, I am still recovering financially. How much money you have should never determine whether you have to sit in a cage,” said Devoureaux Wolf of Chicago Community Bond Fund.
Current money bond practices in Cook County are the subject of a lawsuit filed in October 2016 arguing that incarcerating people because they cannot afford to pay bond is unconstitutional. This argument was bolstered by a memorandum released in July 2017 by former Attorney General Eric Holder and his law firm, Covington and Burling, LLP. The memorandum described Cook County practices as “an unconstitutional wealth-based pretrial system that is irrational, unjust, costly, and disproportionately affects minority communities.”
“If followed by judges, the new order should reduce the number of people being jailed pretrial at Cook County Jail by around half. More than 4,000 people, 62% of the population of Cook County Jail, are currently being jailed simply because their bonds were set at amounts that they could not afford. We are going to be observing bond court closely to ensure that judges are setting bonds only in amounts that people can pay and no one is incarcerated pretrial simply because of poverty,” said Matt McLoughlin of Chicago Community Bond Fund. In addition to changing the procedures used during an initial bond hearing, the rule also requires that the court review all cases where bond has not been posted within seven days. Under the order, everyone held in Cook County Jail because they cannot pay a bond should be released without having to pay money at all, have a new bond set in a lower amount that they can pay and be released, or be given a full detention hearing with all the accompanying due process protections.
As the new rule begins to take effect, the Chicago Community Bond Fund will continue to work with our partners in the Coalition to End Money Bond evaluate whether judges are following the order and to accept requests for help paying bond. As part of the nationwide grassroots movement for bond reform, CCBF will continue to advocate for people accused of crimes and their families, including pushing back against onerous pretrial conditions of surveillance and control such as house arrest, electronic monitoring, drug testing, and curfews.
The Chicago Community Bond Fund was founded in 2015 by a group of activists, attorneys, and community members who had been impacted by Cook County Jail. As part of a nationwide, grassroots movement for bond reform, CCBF has campaigned for the elimination of money bond because it is the primary cause of pretrial detention in Cook County and is fundamentally unfair. Additionally, CCBF has operated a revolving bond fund that has helped free 91 people from Cook County Jail.