Illinois Makes History by Passing Sweeping Criminal Justice Reform Legislation, Including Abolishing Money Bond

Abolishing money bond will allow thousands of people to stay in their communities while awaiting trial.

People should not be kept in jail because they lack access to money. 

The use of money bonds in the Illinois court system means that access to money becomes the deciding factor in determining whether someone remains in jail before the outcome of their case is decided. Access to money shouldn’t determine whether someone is jailed or free while awaiting trial.

With the historic passage of the Criminal Justice omnibus bill (HB3653) during the 2021 Lame Duck session, Illinois lawmakers restored some faith and integrity into the criminal legal system. Illinois is now the only state in the country to eliminate the use of money in its pretrial system. This change will alleviate the financial burden that money bond puts on families and accused people.

In addition to abolishing money bond, new restrictions were placed on the use of surveillance technology, like electronic monitors. Now, accused people who are placed on electronic monitors as a condition of their pretrial release will have the opportunity for the judge to periodically determine if electronic monitors are still necessary, and also guarantee movement while on a monitor to do things like grocery shop and accumulate sentencing credit.

“By passing HB3653, Illinois set the standard for criminal legal system reform in the United States,” says Patrice James, Shriver Center’s Director of Community Justice. “This must be the beginning of a new era where Illinois lawmakers make the bold and necessary choice to stop decades of harmful criminal justice policies that, under the illusion of safety, continue to target Black people and other people of color.”

The criminal legal system is a racialized system of control and that is rampant in the pretrial system. Black people ages 18-29 receive significantly higher bail amounts than all other racial groups. Often, bond payments that are made are the result of accused people and their families crowd sourcing money from their friends and loved ones. More often-than-not, it is Black women who bear the brunt of that strain and struggle. Just 72 hours in jail makes someone 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed one year later. Pretrial incarceration leads to housing insecurity and homelessness; even just a few days in jail lead to the loss of jobs and income, putting entire households at risk of eviction.

We thank Illinois legislators for listening to people most impacted and supporting and passing HB3653, advancing economic and racial justice in Illinois. The Shriver Center remains committed to working with Illinois lawmakers and criminal legal system stakeholders. We are ready to support and help shape implementation efforts and continue to advocate for policies that strengthen communities and disrupt the harms caused by the criminal legal system. 

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