Keeping Cash Bail to Make Money – Ghosts of Black Codes

Supporting victims of domestic violence, substance addiction treatment, and body cameras for police officers are things that should be publicly supported.

The cash bail system penalizes the poor and people of color. Coupled with chronic disproportionate minority contact by law enforcement, the cash bail system results in poor people, Black people, and other people of color being held in jail before trial far more often that wealthy individuals and white people who are otherwise similarly situated.

Scaring the public with scenarios of domestic violence services being curtailed ostensibly as a consequence of reform measures is cowardly and immoral.

Illinois State Senator Don DeWitte is doing just that these days. We should hold him accountable. His views are woefully out of touch with our communities in Kane County.

The purpose of bail is to ensure that defendants in criminal proceedings appear in court and to ensure public safety when an individual accused of a crime poses are risk to the public. It is NEVER appropriate to use is as a means of generating revenue.

The recently passed reforms do away with cash bail. In its place will be a pre-trial release system that assesses flight risk and safety and releases defendants with a set of pre-trial conditions (which may in some instances include electronic home monitoring for example) to ensure that individuals appear in court when required and which maintain public safety. Under this reformed system a judge can keep someone in pre-trial detention if the circumstances warrant it. The difference is that the size of one’s net worth in the reformed system dictates who benefits from the presumption of innocence.

Perhaps Sen. DeWitte thought he was elevating his rhetoric by moving away from his more craven “parade of horribles,” “the sky is falling,” and “bloodshed and mayhem” talking points. He failed.

When I saw his Facebook post the first thing that came to my mind were post-Reconstruction era efforts to re-enslave Black people such as Black Codes.

Black Codes attempted to use “law and order” as a pre-text to arrest freed slaves and put them back to work as a punishment. It used the criminal justice system to profit from Black people’s labor. Maintaining the cash bail system because of the revenue it generates for the community is eerily similar to these horrific tactics of the past.

Clearly Sen. DeWitte does not support criminal justice reform. On this we disagree.

I support HB 3653. It represents long overdue reforms that are common-sense and evidence-based. My objection here is not on the fact that Sen. DeWitte holds a different opinion on the criminal justice system (that’s a separate conversation).

The tactics of Sen. DeWitte – decrying the loss of revenue as a reason to perpetuate a racist and economically biased system – fall clearly outside the realm of reasonable disagreement.

They are racist.

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