Advocates Say Illinois Bond Court Judges Continue to Fail at Implementation of Reform

Chicago Community Bond Fund
Source: www.chicagobond.org

Community groups watching bond court say that judges are still not following Chief Judge Evans’ General Order requiring only money bonds people can pay.

CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)—October 3, 2017

Authored by: Chicago Community Bond Fund

For the second week in a row, volunteers through The Coalition to End Money Bond were in bond court to observe the implementation of an order by Chief Judge Evans aimed at ensuring that no one is incarcerated at Cook County Jail simply because they are unable to post a bond. This week, advocates also tracked whether defendants who were not able to post a monetary bond within seven days were given a review hearing as required by the order. Since September 18th, when the order went into effect for felony cases, courtwatchers continued to observe uneven implementation of the order by the new judges appointed to carry it out.

While Evans’ order stipulates that those incarcerated because they cannot afford their bond be given a review within seven days of their initial bail decision, this review was ineffective for most people. In response to public defenders’ requests for review of unpaid money bonds, judges in the preliminary hearing courtrooms merely entered and continued the motions, delaying the review of bond for another 2-3 weeks. Only three people with money bonds set in amounts higher than they could pay during week one under the new order were granted a review within seven days of having their bond set.

“Judge Evan’s order clearly states that anyone held for more than seven days because they cannot afford to post bond is supposed to get a review of that bond and be released on a I-bond or have their bond set at a rate which they can pay. This also extends to the 4,000 people being held at Cook County Jail because they can’t post bond. Every last one of those people is owed a review of their bond, and judges refusing to give these reviews are acting with flagrant disregard to people’s rights,” said Matt McLoughlin, a co-founder of Chicago Community Bond Fund.

Approximately 4,000 people remain incarcerated in Cook County Jail on bonds set before September 18th of this year. There has still been no indication that a mass review of their bonds will occur. Chicago Community Bond Fund (“CCBF”) has received 61 calls for assistance since the order came into effect, including several people who had unpayable money bonds set after September 18th.

Judges in Central Bond Court continued to disregard parts of Judge Evans’ order for a second week in a row. Since the order went into effect on September 18th, more than 40 bonds have been set above amounts people said they could afford and there has been an increase in the use of punitive pretrial conditions such as electronic monitoring and 24 hour curfews. In the past week alone, at least 24 bonds were set in amounts higher than what people said they could pay, according to observers and court records. At least 31 bonds included electronic monitoring. Aside from observing the judge’s’ initial decisions and adherence to the order, court watchers are collecting data to better understand trends in bond-setting practices as judges move away from monetary bonds and towards other conditions of pretrial release. Notable, all four judges observed in Central Bond Court so far have set bonds in amounts higher than people can pay, leaving advocates concerned about how strictly the order will be followed moving forward.

“While we are pleased to see the number of people receiving unpayable D-bonds declining, we are greatly disturbed to see judges that were put on the bench to implement this order continuing to set monetary bonds in amounts designed to unconstitutionally detain legally innocent people. We are very concerned that many judges in Cook County are not fully implementing the Chief Judge’s order, and that there has been no transparency about the order’s impact nor about plans to improve implementation,” said Sharlyn Grace, a co-founder of Chicago Community Bond Fund.

Chicago Community Bond Fund and our allies in the Coalition to End Money Bond will continue to send court observers to Central Bond Court to ensure Chief Judge Evans’ order is implemented fully. The Coalition will also be releasing a report in November that summarizes data collected from court observation that began in August 2017. The report will be used as a tool to build awareness around the use of money bond in Cook County and advocate for an end to money bond and pretrial detention.

The Chicago Community Bond Fund was started in 2015 by a group of activists, attorneys, and community members who’ve been impacted by Cook County Jail. Since its formation, CCBF has been working to abolish money bond and end pretrial detention. Additionally, CCBF has operated a revolving fund that has helped free 95 people from Cook County Jail or electronic monitoring.

Source: www.chicagobond.org