Debates continue among political parties over Illinois’ new SAFE-T Act


The Safe-T Act is already law in Illinois, but cash bail will end on Jan. 1 under the Pretrial Fairness Act. 

One state lawmaker filed a bill that amends language in the current law, while others in his party fired back, saying such changes would do more harm than good. 

“Right now, the system is broken and I am proud of my partners in the survivor advocacy community for coming to the table and staying at the table and getting changes that will make us all safer,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), who adds that some of the changes fought for in the Safe-T Act are being threatened. 

After consulting with local law enforcement, downstate Democratic Senator Scott Bennett introduced Senate Bill 4228, which he says clarifies language in the current Pretrial Fairness Act. It broadens the net of who can be held behind bars before trial, from an offender who poses a threat to a specific person to being a threat to an individual or the community. 

Opponents feel this could potentially continue clogging up the court system. 

“In bond court right now, you might have a three-hour session where you hear 150 cases at 30 seconds each,” Cassidy said. “What we need is to be able to spend that 10,15, 20 minutes on a case that really needs it.”  

They worry that under such language, there would be a presumption of detention rather than release. Another provision they’re concerned about is removing language that requires state’s attorneys to notify victims of their perpetrator’s detention hearings and releases from custody. 

“We need this clear guidance and we need these clear communication channels. Senate Bill 4228 would, unfortunately, jeopardize the safety of survivors,” said Apna Ghar, Inc. manager Radhika Sharma-Gordon. 

In response, state Senator Scott Bennett says : 

“As a former prosecutor, I understood the importance of presuming innocence for individuals before being proven guilty, supporting police and keeping violent criminals out of our neighborhoods. Senate Bill 4228 is an effort to improve consistency in the Safe-T Act and allow law enforcement officials to continue to effectively perform their duties and protect our communities.”  

The bill could be reviewed when lawmakers go into session next month.

Read more: Latest Chicago news headlines

But it could also be amended by the Senate and House before potentially getting called to the floor for a vote. 

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