© 2024 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Peoria-area officials assess first week of new no-cash bail system

Peoria County State's Attorney Jodi Hoos stands at a podium in front of a county banner next to a U.S. flag as she speaks to reporters during an April 2022 news conference.
Joe Deacon
Peoria County State's Attorney Jodi Hoos says things went pretty well from her office's standpoint during the first week of Illinois' new pretrial detention system commonly known as no-cash bail.

A little more than a week after implementation of no-cash bail in Illinois, Peoria County State’s Attorney Jodi Hoos says the new process is running mostly as expected.

The Pretrial Fairness portion of the SAFE-T Act aimed at criminal justice reform was originally supposed to take effect on Jan. 1. Legal challenges delayed the implementation, but ultimately the state Supreme Court upheld the law and the new process started on Sept. 18.

“I think our planning before this really helped out. I mean, we've had meetings for months, even going back into last year,” Hoos said. “We had been preparing for this almost a year ago now, meetings with all the stakeholders: the circuit clerk, the chief judge, the chief public defender, chief of probation, as well as the sheriff's office.

“So I think that really put us on a good foot forward, because for the most part, everybody knew what to expect. Obviously, we’ll have to adapt with new things or new issues that come up, but I think for the most part, it's been going pretty well.”

Similarly, Tazewell County Deputy Chief Assistant State's Attorney Mike Holly said they didn’t encounter any major issues.

“It's been fairly smooth so far. Of course, we're just at the beginning. But there was a lot of work done ahead of time trying to prepare, and I think we're seeing that pay off,” Holly said. “I have the greatest hope that everything will continue to run smoothly.

“Of course, it's a new system and there's a lot of different individuals from different offices involved in it, so I'm sure there'll be some bumps along the road, but anticipate everybody's prepared to deal with those.”

Peoria County Sheriff Chris Watkins said they also didn’t experience any significant glitches at the jail, but he thinks it will take some time to see fully how the system is working.

“There hasn't been any major arrests where we've seen them released when they (previously) would have been held on bail yet,” Watkins said. “I can't speak for the courts and the state's attorney, but we haven't seen a huge change yet on our end. It'll take a few weeks or a few months even to really see what this looks like.”

Watkins said the detainee population at the Peoria County Jail dropped by more than 40 over the course of last week, but more than half of those were individuals transferred out for prison sentences. He added that many people currently in pretrial custody are held on cases that pre-date the new system.

“The individuals that are here on gun charges, they probably won't even go to court until their next court date that was originally set up before no-cash bail,” Watkins said. “They have up to 90 days to see a lot of these people, so all these people aren't rushing to court.”

Hoos said while there are no automatically detainable offenses, the statute allows those charged with serious violent crimes to remain in custody.

“There's never going to be a case where this person gets arrested, and they're detained no matter what,” Hoos said. "The trigger is always for us to file a petition, and then it goes in front of a judge for a hearing, which really is the same as the old system; we've just removed money from it."

“Really, most of the offenses that we were detaining people on pre-SAFE-T Act are the same ones that we're detaining today. Obviously, murders, shootings, home invasions, sex assaults, robberies — those violent offenses are the people that were detained before the SAFE-T Act, and those are the same people that were detaining today.”

Holly agreed that not much has really changed.

“It's different in the fact that, of course, the money factor is taken out of it. But we're still looking at individual cases and determining who's detained based on the circumstances of the offense and the nature of the offense,” he said. “A lot of the considerations that the judges have for who is detained or not detained are a lot of the same considerations that they would look at and examine before.”

Hoos said the factors that judges can take into account when considering a pretrial detention petition are very similar to those previously used to determine bail.

“Number one is the nature and seriousness of the offense: Are we are we talking about a murder, or are we talking about a burglary where somebody was injured? Obviously, two very different types of cases,” Hoos said. “So, the seriousness of the offense, the facts and circumstances of it, any prior offenses that the person has committed, as well as if the defendant had any warrants outstanding before or missed court in the past — those are all factors that the judge can look at when determining whether this person should be detained.”

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.