As many Illinoisans wait with bated breath to see if the state Supreme Court upholds its block on the elimination of cash bail, a local sheriff said he is hopeful the reform will be put to rest for good.
"We were very happy about the decision," Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Bullard told Fox News. "We hope that the Illinois Supreme Court takes a look at the language in the state constitution and sees how the elimination of cash bail in Illinois is a clear violation … and that they uphold the Kankakee County decision."
Illinois' Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act took effect on Sunday, but the state's Supreme Court halted a key provision — the elimination of cash bail at the last minute. The high court issued a stay to "maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois" after a lower court declared the bail measure unconstitutional.
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Circuit Judge Thomas Cunnington's had ruled in favor of Illinois prosecutors and sheriffs around the state who filed a lawsuit aiming to stop the pre-trial release and bail reforms in the SAFE-T Act. The state is appealing the decision.
"As criminal justice leaders in the state, many of us opposed this legislation based on the public safety aspect," Bullard told Fox News. "We were really glad that the state's attorney in my county and over 60 others joined in a lawsuit against the state."
No hearing date has been set, but the justices announced plans for an expedited process to review the appeal and make a final ruling.
Bail reform advocates argue that the current cash bail system bases the freedom of people awaiting trial largely on their ability to pay money and have said it disproportionately affects communities of color.
Bullard, however, said a defendant can petition the court to declare themselves indigent, or unable to afford cash bail. The judge then has the discretion to accept or reject the petition and can reduce the amount of bail or release them on their own recognizance.
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"The system is already in place with our current system to take care of people who claim to be poor," he said. "And obviously, with the system based on handling crimes one at a time in front of a judge, race is not factored into that at all."
Still, other provisions that took effect Sunday include limiting when defendants can be deemed flight risks, allowing defendants under electronic monitoring to leave home for 48 hours before they can be charged with escape, and, most concerning to Bullard, allowing the investigation into anonymous complaints against officers.
"Disciplining police officers based on anonymous complaints … that violates the constitutional rights of a police officer who has the right of due process to face their accuser," the sheriff told Fox News. "A police officer is not a lower-class citizen."
The SAFE-T Act — which one mayor called "America's most dangerous law" — includes many other reforms on police conduct and policy, like mandating the use of body cameras, prohibiting police access to any military equipment and streamlining the decertification process for officers.
"A lot of the things that are in the SAFE-T Act come from advocates that are anti-police," Bullard said. "Law enforcement leaders are really taxed not to align themselves with this thinking, not to think that there's compromise when there's a group of people that just believe that cops are racists, that cops are murderers, that cops are all these ugly things."
"I tell my people that while they fight the battles on the street to keep the public safe, I will fight every chance I get with Springfield or Washington, D.C., or wherever to make sure that they can do their job as safely as possible while they respect the constitutional civil liberties of our citizens," Bullard told Fox News.
To watch the full interview with Sheriff Bullard, click here.