A few dozen inmates who remain locked up in Cook County Jail because they’re too poor to post their relatively low bonds may be out soon under a new program State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced for indigent, nonviolent offenders Wednesday.
After the Cook County Sheriff’s Office singled out 50 cases of those who were “languishing” in jail for several months because of their inability to post $1,000 or less, the State’s Attorney and Public Defender’s offices came together to identify those inmates who would be better served outside jail, Foxx said.
Through “agreed motions” requesting I-bonds, the inmates who qualify would be released on their own recognizance.
Foxx said most of those who qualify for the bond reform initiative are in for drug offenses, property crimes or retail theft.
“One person was in for retail theft and couldn’t pay the $300 they needed to walk. . . . Another person broke into their friend’s house and stole some shoes,” Foxx told the Chicago Sun-Times. “An alternative to jail makes sense.”
While awaiting trial outside jail, those needing treatment for drugs or mental health would be required to get help as part of conditions of their release, the top prosecutor said.
It costs $163 a day to house an inmate, so taxpayers will be saving money through the initiative, Foxx said.
She said inmates who showed a propensity for a possible return to jail, such as those “agitating” victims, would not be considered for the program.
Foxx’s announcement comes in the wake of a state representative proposing that the state do away with cash bail for all people accused of nonviolent crimes — something that already has happened in Washington, D.C.
Working in concert with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, state Rep. Christian Mitchell filed a bill that would allow people charged with nonviolent offenses to be released on their own recognizance until their court hearings.
Judges would continue to have the discretion to order detention or electronic monitoring for people accused of harming others, Mitchell said.
Mitchell’s bill was assigned last month to the House Judiciary Committee, of which he’s a member.
Bail reform is a national issue. Other states also are considering doing away with cash bonds. In November, Dart called for abolishing the system in Illinois. More than 60 percent of people in Cook County Jail can’t afford to pay their bond, according to Mitchell.
Foxx said on Wednesday that she is constantly speaking with public safety stakeholders about bond reform, but she said if she can implement immediate solutions she will continue to do so.
Contributing: Frank Main