Cash bonds keep people in jail who are innocent until proven guilty

This year, the Illinois General Assembly has a chance to end that injustice.

SHARE Cash bonds keep people in jail who are innocent until proven guilty

Cook County Jail is seen in this photo July 24, 2020.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

This year, hundreds of thousands of people across Illinois took to the streets to protest the racist systems of policing and incarceration that harm so many Black and Brown people in our state and beyond.

One way the system does harm is through the practice of arresting people and setting money bonds that they cannot afford. So people — especially Black people — are being locked up because they are poor.

This year, the Illinois General Assembly has an opportunity to address this issue. Last week, Sen. Robert Peters introduced the Pretrial Fairness Act, which would end money bail and replace it with a system that restores the presumption of innocence.

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This week, a letter signed by more than 200 religious leaders was sent to state legislators urging them to end money bail. The signatories included Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders representing tens of thousands of congregants. The Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church, which I lead, includes 77,000 people in 370 congregations ranging from Chicago all the way to the border of Iowa. As people of faith, we believe that each life is sacred. We know that equitable justice is essential.

The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that we must do the work of binding up the brokenhearted and securing liberation for prisoners. A wealth-based system that relies on money bond and incarcerates hundreds of thousands of people who are innocent until proven guilty is unjust, and we need prophetic voices and action.

Illinois elected officials must take action to remedy this inequity, restore the presumption of innocence, and significantly reduce the number of people jailed before trial. Let us listen to the prophet Amos and allow justice to roll down like a river throughout our beautiful state.

Bishop Sally Dyck, United Methodist Church, Chicago Area Episcopal Office

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