Chicago's Cook County Aimed to Be the Country’s Leader in Bail Reform--So What Happened?
Date:  09-19-2018

New report asserts that Cook County judges continue to ignore Chief Judge's order to use money bonds only when necessary
From the new Coalition to End Money Bail report Shifting Sands: An Investigation into the First Year of Bond Reform:

The stated purpose for the use of money bond in the criminal legal system is to secure an accused person’s future presence in court after their release. For decades, it has instead resulted in the pretrial incarceration of thousands of people across Cook County who are presumed innocent under the law. In effect, money bond has provided a way around the constitutional protections guaranteed to all accused people in the United States: the government cannot take away a person’s freedom without proving their incarceration is necessary and providing them with sufficient due process. Ultimately, the unchecked use of money bond to incarcerate people pretrial contributes to mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal legal system.1

In July 2017, Cook County sought to become a national leader in righting the injustices caused by money bond that target impoverished individuals and communities of color.2 The Chief Judge of Cook County, Timothy Evans, issued General Order 18.8A (Order), instructing judges in Cook County to follow existing state and federal laws requiring transparent pretrial release, to use money bond only when necessary, and when money bonds are used to set them only at amounts a person can afford to pay.3

In February 2018, the Coalition to End Money Bond released “Monitoring Cook County’s Central Bond Court: A Community Courtwatching Initiative,” a report analyzing the initial impact of General Order 18.8A at Central Bond Court.4 Because there was no other method for collecting bond court data, dozens of volunteers recorded the outcomes of bond hearings each day for a month before and after the Order went into effect, demonstrating the need for full implementation of the Order and ongoing data collection and publication by the court system. This new report from the Coalition to End Money Bond updates the earlier report by reassessing the impact of General Order 18.8A nearly one year after its passage. In particular, new data shows that judges’ adherence to the Order is worsening with time and that more than 2,700 people are presently incarcerated in Cook County Jail solely because they are unable to pay money bonds.5 Continue reading