To the Editor:
The SAFE-T Act (“Act”), which abolished cash bail is a well-intentioned, but deeply flawed overhaul of the criminal justice system in Illinois.
The specific flaw is contained in section 725 ILCS 5/110-6.1, which prevents a judge from exercising discretion to hold in custody until trial defendants charged with such crimes as second-degree murder or kidnapping.
This amounts to a radical and fundamental shift in the criminal justice system.
The quality of life in society is a result of the health of the fabric of that society. Crime can damage this fabric. To understand the effect of crime on a community, think of a stone thrown into a pond. The stone’s impact creates a ripple, far from the point of impact. A crime acts in the same way on a community.
Consider retail thieves striking a store without fear of ending up in jail, because the offense of retail theft does not allow for it. This “minor” crime, if repeated enough, may cause the store to close and a neighborhood to lose access to needed goods. The result: The fabric of the community is seriously damaged.
In reflecting on this truth, it becomes apparent that the SAFE-T Act falls short of protecting our society by categorizing crimes in a manner that prevents judges from doing what they do best, exercising their discretion while taking into consideration not only the accused, but also the myriad ways in which a crime can affect an entire community.
Ret. Judge Clark Erickson
Kankakee County Circuit Court Judge 1995-2020
21st Judicial District, State of Illinois