Safe-T law draws mixed opinions

Aaliyah Solano, Editor-in-Chief

   Several aspects of the SAFE-T Act have been modified, eliminating cash bail in Illinois on Jan 1 and replacing it with a system in which pre-trial detention is based on community risk rather than financial means.

     “I’m pleased that the General Assembly has passed clarifications that uphold the principle we fought to protect: to bring an end to a system where wealthy violent offenders can buy their way out of jail, while less fortunate nonviolent offenders wait in jail for trial,” said Governor JB Pritzker. 

     The Act has been amended to clarify court authority in controlling electronic monitoring and escape, to outline specific guidelines for trespassing violations, and to establish a grant program to assist public defenders with increased caseloads. The amendments strengthen and clarify the main principle of the SAFE-T Act, which is to ensure that people who pose a risk to the community are not released from jail simply because they can afford bail. In contrast, people without financial means remain in jail regardless of whether they pose a risk at all.

      “I believe the intention of this act was to set a standard level of accountability throughout the state of Illinois,” Kyle Hilderbrand said, “As well as to create a pre-trial process that is more equitable for all persons accused of a crime. In this regard, I believe they were able to do both.”

     “There were bail restrictions so judges had to give high bail on certain cases. And some of those cases were working-class people who may have made an accident or mistake and were compounded with extremely high bail and they can’t get out,” John Smith said, “I believe the intention was to help those people, not career criminals.

     Regardless of the intentions of the justice system, there is still a concern for those with lesser crimes being free and able to commit more crimes, as well as those arrested for lesser crimes being held for something so minor.

  Additionally, bail was also used to make sure the defendant showed up for their court date.
According to, defendants who have committed offenses such as kidnapping, arson, robbery, and aggravated assault for example could go free unless the court suspects they would not show up, or if the prosecutor can “identify the threat posed to a specific identifiable person or persons, rather than to the general public.”

     “I think the same people who go in and out of jail will continue to do those same things due to the system changing,” senior Dylan Neils said.

      “There are a lot of misconceptions on this act due to the volume of opinions on it,” Hilderbrand said, “Personally, I do not believe it is as bad as some may make it out to be. The largest point of controversy is no cash bail for lesser crimes. In many cases, these cash bails are not set very high, so most of the time the accused can still post bail.”

     With Chicago having one of the highest crime rates in the country, many believe that as a result of the act, crime will continue to rise.

     “No crime rates won’t change based on bail,” Smith said, “You won’t see more murders because ‘Hey there’s no bail for murder now.’ Crime will go up because of recession, a bad economy, but crime won’t go up because of bail.”

     “Criminals who are wealthy can no longer buy their way out of jail, which keeps harmful people from roaming the streets, preventing more crimes from happening,” senior Lilliana Mascote said.

     There is an argument that this crime can harm those wrongfully convicted of crimes and those with minor charges.

     “I think depending on the crime, certain people should have the option of bail, but only to an extent,” senior Phillip Carlton said.

      “My thoughts are that it should be up to the judges, it should be up to the judge to decide how dangerous that person is and whether they should have a high bail or a low bail,” Smith said, “It should be up to the people in the courtroom who have the evidence in front of them.”

     Because the act is still relatively new, it is difficult to predict whether the amendments will be beneficial or not.