Throughout Illinois, many people are held in jail awaiting trial simply because they are unable to afford the monetary bond for their release. Money bonds often means that wealth, not innocence, determines whether someone is free or whether they are locked up as their case proceeds. This results in our current system treating people without the money for bond as if they are “guilty until proven innocent,” and those with resources as “innocent until proven guilty.”

In the Cook County jail system alone, two-thirds of those detained before conviction would be free if they were able to afford monetary bond. The use of money bonds increases racial disparities in the criminal justice system, as those detained pretrial are more likely to be convicted and receive longer sentences. 

The ACLU of Illinois is a member of the Coalition to End Money Bond. The coalition works to change the policies of jailing people simply because they are unable to afford monetary bond. Find more about the Coalition to End Money Bond here

As part of the ACLU Smart Justice Campaign, Lavette Mayes shared her experience with monetary bond in Chicago. Watch her story here.

Lavette Mayes was also featured on an episode of our podcast TALKING LIBERTIES. In the episode she was joined by Sharlyn Grace, Executive Director of the Chicago Community Bond Fund. You can listen to TALKING LIBERTIES: The Price of Cash Bail here.

Below are some talking points on changing this policy:

  • Reliance upon money bonds means that a person’s access to wealth determines whether they are free or locked up before trial.
  • Our current system treats people without the money to pay bond as if they are guilty until proven innocent, and those with the money to pay bond as innocent until proven guilty.
  • Pretrial incarceration causes people to lose their jobs, housing, and custody of their children. After a month in jail, people lose access to public benefits like Medicaid.
  • By destabilizing the lives of accused people and their families, pretrial incarceration increases recidivism and decreases public safety over time.
  • Use of money bonds increases racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
  • Payment of money bond has not been shown to increase court appearance. The policy of cash bail is not evidence-based.

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