Local leaders react to changes to Pretrial Fairness Act

Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 10:28 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - After spending most of the week in Springfield, Illinois lawmakers make their final changes to the Pretrial Fairness Act, sparking a reaction from our local leaders.

The Pretrial Fairness Act is a portion of the SAFE-T Act, which will end cash bail. Some believe clarifications to this act will improve the safety of our state and others say these efforts aren’t enough.

Less than a month before a bill promising criminal justice and police reform takes effect in Illinois, more changes are in store, including a better understanding of what the Pretrial Fairness Act exactly means.

This amendment focuses on clarifying language within the SAFE-T Act, including cash bail and whether people jailed before Jan. 1 will be released once the legislation goes into effect and making clear which crimes qualify for pre-trial release.

“By making sure that pre-trial jailing is not dependent on a person’s bank account. We are prioritizing community safety over incarcerating folks just because they don’t have enough money to pay a bond to get out,” says Reverend Violet Johnicker.

Johnicker is a pastor at Brooke Road Methodist Church in Rockford. She supports this initiative because she says it prioritizes public safety.

“There are so many good things that this is going to do for families and communities in Illinois,” says Johnicker. “Especially as a woman, as a mom, that’s really important to me, that survivor’s voices have been heard and were a key part of drafting this legislation.”

Still, some say they question why some conditions of pre-trial release will not be made public and why non-violent burglary isn’t considered a detainable offense.

“This does nothing other than to help the criminals it doesn’t help the public,” says Ogle County Sheriff Brian Vanvickle. “That’s a huge concern moving forward, that the victim’s rights are secondary to criminal rights.”

“Have they gone far enough? Have they been ‘fixed’? You know, that that there’s probably some gray area there, but they were addressed,” says Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley.

Democratic State Representative Dave Vella is one of the lawmakers who are in favor of the trailer bill. He says no money should determine whether or not someone gets out of jail.

“Very rich people who were sometimes in the drug trade were bought out for very serious structures and be out the next day. And that didn’t seem fair. I think bringing fairness in the system makes the system always better.”

Republican State Representative Andrew Chesney says even with changes to the Pretrial Fairness act, the SAFE-T Act must be repealed.

“The democrats’ proposed “fixes” to the legislation still allow for many offenders to be released back onto our streets for numerous violent crimes. And, to add insult to injury, it lessens penalties on repeat offenders.”

The latest proposal adds all forcible felonies to the list of detainable offenses, meaning people who commit first and second-degree murder, criminal sexual assault, kidnapping and more won’t qualify for pre-trial release.

People who the courts consider a threat to themselves, others or their communities at large also don’t qualify for pre-trial release under the new revisions.