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Criminal Justice Letter to the Editor Published in the Chicago Sun-Times on August 27, 2020
The headline ”Judges are Freeing More Violent Crime Suspects on Electronic Monitoring” makes it seem, in our view, as though this program in particular and bail reform in general are the main drivers of violent crime lately in Cook County. The article does state that the aim of bail reform “was to keep people who pose little risk to the public from languishing in jail because they are too poor to make bail.”
The League of Women Voters of Cook County has long supported bail reform if it is accomplished in a safe and fair manner. Judges have a tool, the Public Safety Assessment, to help them decide whether to hold a defendant in jail or to release him/her. This tool assigns one score to defendants for their likelihood of reoffending and another for their likelihood of meeting all of their court dates. Judges also receive written reports from a pretrial services worker that gives further details for these two scores.
If defendants receive a score that is not clear-cut, judges can rely on electronic monitoring as a middle ground. Reduced or no bail for non-violent offenders who are not deemed a risk to others and who would most likely return for court hearings is appropriate. The use of electronic monitoring for defendants who are charged with or have a background of violent offenses is not appropriate nor safe for communities. Bail reform can work, if done correctly.
Jan Goldberg and Karin Hribar, co-chairs of the Criminal Justice Interest Group League of Women Voters of Cook County
Cook County League Newsletter September 2020 Edition
Check out the September 2020 issue of The Observer for a Cook County election update, profile on an Observer who’s observed and written reports about all four Cook County governments, recent advocacy actions, and more! Read it here.