Public Policy and External Relations
July 17, 2012
BOND COURT CHANGES
We applaud Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle for taking a step in the right direction by releasing a report detailing new initiatives to reform the bond court system (Chicago Tribune: “Cook County looking at bond court changes,” July 12, 2012).
Those of us who work to break the cycle of crime and detention that destroys people’s lives and destabilizes communities are deeply encouraged, especially when all stakeholders involved with the report agree that we can do better.
We’re pleased that the County has identified effective ways to spend less of its budget on incarceration, and more on properly assessing and supporting those who could return to their families and communities at little to no risk to overall public safety.
According to the report released on July 12, 2012, by the Justice Advisory Council, it’s estimated that 900 inmates out of the 9,400 currently incarcerated are non-violent offenders with low bonds, yet they cannot afford to post bail or don’t have a residence, making them ineligible for home monitoring.
Under this new proposal, the county will save money-an estimated $143 per prisoner per day-and free up jail space by releasing low-level inmates who currently must remain incarcerated if they are unable to post the required bond money. And-most importantly-this cost saving will come at very low risk to the safety of our communities.
Through home monitoring, these low-risk defendants can continue to work, help their families or attend school. They can participate in critical out patient, community-based programs that successfully treat drug and alcohol addiction and are proven to reducing the overall recidivism rate. Rather than waiting idle for their trial at the Cook County Jail, they’ll have access to services that will provide them with the skills necessary to become law-abiding contributors to society.
Rather than sitting in jail at taxpayer expense, our hope is that many low-risk defendants will be returned to their communities and provided services that will allow them to make better life choices, rebuild their families, improve their communities, and become productive citizens. When that happens, we all benefit.