ROCK ISLAND--Judges in Rock Island County say a new Illinois law will level the playing field for people accused of low level crimes when it comes to posting bail.
“A person of means, a person who has money, you’re not going to be in jail. If you’re a poor person, the likelihood is you probably will be in jail, at least for a few days, maybe weeks or months,” says Chief Judge Walter Braud.
The Bail Reform Act of 2017 states that a person accused of a minor crime should be eligible for a pretrial release based on whether or not the person is a public threat and not solely on their ability to pay a monetary bond.
“I think it’s long overdue and I think it’s going to work out just fine. Most people come back to court, most people don’t get in trouble in between one offense and another,” says Judge Braud.
Judges can make their decision to waive bail with the help of an evaluation from the probation department. The new law also offers alternative options for offenders who may be considered a potential flight risk.
“They can wear ankle bracelets, they can report to the probation department, they may telephone in to the probation, all kinds of ways that we`re keeping up with people. We`re not just letting them go,” says Braud.
The new law also aims to relieve jail overcrowding across the state.
In Rock Island County there are about 260 inmates in the county jail, there are enough beds for more than 300.
Rock Island County Sheriff Gerald Bustos says overcrowding is not an issue, however most of the people accused of lower level crimes are in jail because they do not have the money to pay bail.
He expects the new Illinois law will reduce the jail population as much as 20 percent.
A drop in the number of people posting bail would also means a drop in revenue for the jail.
“Here in Rock Island County, we get $40 for every person posting bond, so arbitrarily if your bond is 100 dollars, when you're released you have to pay (about) 140 dollars,” says Bustos.
Those fees bring in about $150,000 annually to the jail.
Bustos expects he revenue funds lost after the Bail Reform Act is put in place to be replaced by the general fund.