Illinois SAFE-T Act ruling: What northern Illinois politicians are saying

Joliet Township Trustee Karl Ferrell holds a megaphone while speaking to a group of protestors gathered in downtown Joliet near the Will County Courthouse on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, in support of the SAFE-T Act.

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of a state law, known as the SAFE-T Act, which will end cash bail in the state.

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of a state law ending cash bail, ordering implementation in mid-September, reported The Associated Press. The ruling overturns a Kankakee County judge’s opinion in December that the law violated the constitution’s provision that “all persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties.”

Here’s what local politicians throughout northern Illinois are saying:

  • “I’m pleased that the Illinois Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the SAFE-T Act and the elimination of cash bail. We can now move forward with historic reform to ensure pre-trial detainment is determined by the danger an individual poses to the community instead of by their ability to pay their way out of jail. My thanks to Attorney General Raoul’s office and the many people who worked tirelessly over the last months to defend these important reforms. I look forward to continuing to work with the General Assembly and our many other partners as we transition to a more equitable and just Illinois.” – Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat.
  • “Someone’s experience with the criminal justice system should not vary based on their income level. The SAFE-T Act was intended to address pervasive inequalities in the criminal justice system, in particular the fact that individuals who are awaiting criminal trials – who have not been convicted of a crime and are presumed innocent – may spend extended periods of time incarcerated because they cannot afford to pay cash bail. The law ensures that the decision about whether people are detained pending trial is not based on whether they can afford to pay for their release.” – Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a Democrat.
  • “Today’s ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court is a victory in the fight for a fairer criminal justice system. For too long, our pretrial detention system has prioritized wealth over public safety, and ending cash bail in Illinois is crucial to ending unjust criminalization of poverty. I’m grateful to the governor and attorney general for their unwavering commitment to building a more equitable Illinois for all.” – Democrat Party of Illinois Chairman Lisa Hernandez
  • “Today’s Supreme Court ruling makes it painfully clear that elections have consequences. Democrats, first led by Mike Madigan and now by JB Pritzker, spent tens of millions of dollars to elect a 5-2 majority of Democrats on the Illinois Supreme Court. It is not surprising that the Court would vote along political lines to allow Governor Pritzker and the Democrat controlled legislature to disregard constitutionally protected rights of crime victims in abolishing cash bail. This historic change in criminal justice law, combined with progressive Democrat prosecutors like Kim Foxx and Eric Rhinehart, will significantly undermine public safety by releasing from custody dangerous, violent criminals at a time when police are under attack and Illinois families and crime victims already fear for their personal safety.” – Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy
  • “Today, the Illinois Supreme Court erased the rights of crime victims by upholding the Pritzker SAFE-T Act, which will release dangerous prisoners onto our streets and make it even harder for law enforcement to protect our communities.” – U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, R-Oakland
  • “Today’s decision by the Illinois Supreme Court upholding the passage of the SAFE-T Act is a major step in the right direction on our journey to justice. All along, our goal has been to right the wrongs of policies that have disproportionately harmed Black, Brown and low-income Illinoisans while, at the same time, bolstering public safety by building a system that centers on accountability and fairness. The amount of money in one’s bank account should never be the determining factor of whether they should be released or detained while awaiting trial. To do so does nothing but criminalize poverty and this disproportionately impacts marginalized communities.” – Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, a Democrat.
  • “The Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling is misguided, it will harm Illinois law enforcement, and make our state less safe. Under Governor JB Pritzker, Illinois has become less safe and violent crime is on the rise. Instead of giving law enforcement the tools they need to go after criminals, Pritzker’s soft-on-crime policies, like ending cash bail, hinder cops from keeping communities safe.” – U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap.
  • “Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court confirms Illinois’ status as the state of lawlessness and disorder. The court ignored the pleas of nearly every prosecutor in the state of Illinois, Democrat and Republican, that the elimination of cash bail will put dangerous criminals back on the street, instead of keeping them in jail or forcing them to post cash bail as they await trial. Many of those offenders will commit crimes again within hours of their release. And who will have to arrest those offenders again and again? The police officers whose jobs have been made immeasurably more difficult by all of the new anti-law enforcement measures that are in place. Today’s ruling is a slap in the face to those who enforce our laws and the people those laws are supposed to protect.” – Illinois Fraternal Order of Police President Chris Southwood.
  • “State’s attorneys and law enforcement personnel from across Illinois have stated in no uncertain terms that their work – and the ultimate safety of their communities – will be threatened by many provisions of this controversial overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system. With crime increasing across the state, eliminating cash bail just puts more criminals back on the streets. I am not surprised that the politically aligned Court would side with the Governor, but this is certainly not the ruling I had hoped for. It clearly sends yet another message that there are limited consequences for committing crimes in Illinois.” – State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Cherry Valley.
  • “This morning, the Illinois Supreme Court found the pre-trial fairness provision of the amended Safe-T-Act constitutional. The law as originally written and passed by the General Assembly, included many glaring deficiencies, including the elimination of cash bail, which would have almost completely eliminated judicial discretion when considering a defendant’s likelihood to appear at future court hearings or if the defendant posed a danger to society. On Oct. 3, 2022, myself, Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser and Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz, accepted an invitation from Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s deputy chief of staff to serve on a group of stakeholders that included only three state’s attorneys to remedy these deficiencies. Many of the improvements recommended by this group were passed by the General Assembly and signed into law on Dec. 6, 2022. I am very proud of the improvements advanced by this group and, as the only Republican on the panel, I am grateful to Senate President Harmon for allowing me the opportunity to work in a bi-partisan fashion to ensure the continued protection of the public. These amendments go a long way in rectifying many, but not all, of the anticipated problems and restore some measure of judicial discretion at bond hearings.” – Robert Berlin, DuPage County State’s Attorney, Republican
  • “I am extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court has decided it is okay for the legislative branch to interfere with a judge’s right to set cash bail for defendants. Gov. Pritzker donated millions to the campaign funds of some of the very justices who were charged with issuing this ruling, and it appears our state’s highest court is proving to be as politicized as the purported social justice warriors who have chosen to put the rights of the accused far ahead of the rights of victims. It’s a bad day for Illinois. Last year I called for a full repeal of the act so we could bring all parties to the table to create fair and balanced legislation that would ensure that individuals who could not afford cash bail did not have their lives upended by overzealous judges, and that charged individuals with significant resources could not buy their way out of jail. That request was ignored by the majority party, and the legislation ended up being a law that enshrined Illinois’ soft-on-crime agenda and disregards a crime victim’s right to feel safe. There is simply no need to strip judges of the full discretion needed to ensure public safety. Through today’s court ruling, the war on victims rolls on in the state of Illinois.” – State Sen. Donald DeWitte, R-St. Charles
  • “In the waning hours of the 101st General Assembly, Illinois Democrats rammed through one of the most problematic criminal justice reform packages ever seen. This act rewrote the book on everything and abolished cash bail, ignoring input from law enforcement and fundamentally changing judicial discretion. Even Democrat State’s Attorneys sued because of the mounting public safety concerns. Yet today, we received the disappointing news that the Illinois Supreme Court declared this questionable law constitutional. Once again, we are left with the Democrat’s extreme progressive agenda that unnecessarily places families and our dedicated law enforcement at greater risk.” – State Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva
  • “The Illinois Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the SAFE-T Act in its entirety is disappointing. While I understand the movement to reform our cash bail system, there is a way to do that fairly while also better ensuring the public safety of our communities. The SAFE-T Act, which the Majority Party negotiated, drafted and passed in the middle of the night with little-to-no input from law enforcement, state’s attorneys, and judges is a far cry from achieving that balance. Instead, counties are now faced with implementing this hastily, dangerous, and ill-conceived law, which I fear will make our state a less safe place to call home.” – State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris
  • “Drawing on my extensive 28-year career in law enforcement, I harbor reservations regarding the expeditious release of offenders and its potential impact on our community. Swift release might compromise accountability, as the primary intent of bail is to ensure offenders appear in court to answer to their charges. Regardless of the intent and result of these reforms, our dedicated officers will steadfastly uphold their commitment to serving the public with unwavering determination, just as they always have.” – Joliet Police Chief William Evans
  • “I am disappointed in today’s ruling of the SAFE-T Act. Eliminating cash bail without providing judges with broad discretion to hold dangerous individuals pre-trial will decrease public safety and make it harder for law enforcement to keep violent criminals off the streets and out of our communities. The SAFE-T Act was pushed through in the middle of the night with little-to-no transparency or input from key stakeholders. It is an ill-conceived rewrite of our state’s criminal justice system that puts criminals above law-enforcement and public safety. We have already seen police officers and sheriffs leave to find new careers because of the SAFE-T Act. With the ruling today, I fear it will be harder to find individuals to fill those positions and keep our communities safe. This is not the outcome we were hoping for today.” – State Sen. Tom Bennett, R-Gibson City
  • “As a steadfast supporter of law enforcement and law and order, I have consistently sounded the alarm about the perils posed by the SAFE-T Act. I have stood shoulder to shoulder with law enforcement officers throughout Illinois, cautioning against the detrimental impact this law would have on our neighborhoods. The Illinois Supreme Court callously disregarded the plain language of our Constitution, which explicitly outlines the offenses subject to bail. Clearly, the court’s priority is politics, not the well-being of Illinois residents. The fact that the two newest court members received substantial campaign contributions from JB Pritzker raises serious concerns about impartiality. Once again, pay-to-play politics has triumphed over the safety and security of the people of Illinois. The ruling on the SAFE-T Act is a glaring example of how politics can overshadow the true needs and safety of our communities. I will not waver in my dedication to correcting this detrimental law and safeguarding the well-being of the people of Southern Illinois as their representative in Congress.I will always stand up to the status quo and demand better for the people. Whether it’s establishment Republicans selling out our values or extreme Democrats like JB Pritzker and Joe Biden, I will fearlessly stand up and fight to make our state safer and more affordable for every Illinoisan. And I will always put the needs of the people ahead of the special interests.” – Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, candidate for Congress in 12th District, former Republican nominee for Illinois governor
  • “I am deeply disturbed by today’s ruling made by the Illinois Supreme Court in favor of the SAFE-T Act. This ruling is just another step in the wrong direction for Illinois. Progressive Democrats continue to push failed, pro-criminal legislation onto the people of Illinois without regard for their safety. These soft-on-crime policies continue to prioritize the wants of criminals over the needs of our communities. We will now be the first in the nation to utilize no-cash bail, all while our state’s crime rate remains one of the highest in the country. Further, I stand behind the law enforcement officers who have continually spoken out against the SAFE-T Act. After their effort to defund the police failed, woke progressives are now attempting to handcuff law enforcement by making their jobs as challenging as possible. This no-cash bail policy ensures that police will continue to arrest the same offenders over and over again, therefore putting their lives in further danger and wasting more taxpayer dollars. I condemn this vile attempt by the Democratic majority to override the Constitution in favor of political social policies aimed at destroying what is left of Illinois.” – State Rep. Bradley Fritts, R-Dixon
  • “The Whiteside County State’s Attorney’s Office will follow the law as established by the General Assembly and Governor, as it has been interpreted by the Supreme Court. Within those confines, my office will do its best to protect the community and crime victims.” – Terry Costello, Whiteside County State’s Attorney, a Democrat
  • “We are very disappointed in the conclusion from the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, we respect the Supreme Court’s decision as the final authority in this matter. We will uphold our oaths of office to support and defend the Constitution. Make no mistake, this decision will impact our County in more than just a financial way. After this ruling, people who commit serious crimes are much more likely to be allowed out of custody for the pendency of their case. Nevertheless, it is the priority of this office to keep the community safe, and we will continue to do so through the rule of law.” – Lee County State’s Attorney Charles Boonstra, a Republican
  • “The biggest concern is public safety. From my standpoint, it’s public safety and holding people who commit crimes accountable so they don’t re-offend. This legislation doesn’t do that. This legislation doesn’t make the public safer; it does the opposite. I think what most people don’t realize is we don’t house people in our jail for low-level crimes already. The legislature brought up the single mom who was stealing diapers for her kids; those are the types of people they’re trying to keep out of jail. Those people haven’t been in jail for years.” – Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle, Republican
  • “Unfortunately, the citizens of Illinois who are the sovereign authority were not consulted in this significant matter. I will continue to fulfill the oath of office to the best of my ability, and I pray to God that prosecutors and law enforcement will continue to be able to properly address violent crime and maintain the safety of our communities given the serious limitations placed on all our agencies by the [SAFE-T Act.]”– Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, Democrat

The Associated Press contributed.

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