peters pfa
Sen. Robert Peters speaks at a Pretrial Fairness Rally at the Captiol in February.

SPRINGFIELD – In the wake of months-long nationwide protests against police brutality and misconduct, State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) took the first step toward reforming the criminal justice system last week by filing the Pretrial Fairness Act, which would end cash bail in Illinois.

“For many people, the definition of ‘criminal justice’ ends at the point of arrest, but it’s important to realize the true size of the entire system,” Peters said. “The reality is that the criminal justice system is large, wide reaching, and full of systemic injustice from top to bottom. The hope is that the Pretrial Fairness Act will be the first in a long series of reforms to reshape the system that has destroyed so many families.”

The Pretrial Fairness Act is the culmination of years of work between Peters and advocates, and its most substantial provision is regarding an issue Peters has long fought for: ending cash bail. Under the Act, the imposition of cash bail is prohibited and a presumption of release is guaranteed.

“In this state and in many states across the country, pretrial incarceration stands at the intersection of race, class and gender," Peters said. "Too many people cannot afford to cover their release bond. Being poor is not a crime and should never be the sole reason a person remains incarcerated as they await their trial.”

The Act will allow for a judge to order pretrial detention if the accused presents a risk of harming others or fleeing. The Act will also allow an arresting officer to release someone they have arrested if the release is in the public interest, with certain exceptions. In addition, the Act will also mandate pretrial data to be collected and released publicly.

“A major aspect of winning safety and justice for our communities is transparency and accountability, and the Pretrial Fairness Act does a lot to provide that,” Peters said.

The Pretrial Fairness Act is Senate Bill 4025. Due to modified Senate procedures as a result of COVID-19, it has not yet been officially read into the record.

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