In August, we posted on the bad news ahead for public safety in Illinois beginning on 1 January 2023. The posting provided a review of key changes to the criminal justice system that are coming with the full implementation of the Illinois SAFE-T Act. In fact, all but two of the 102 elected state’s attorneys in Illinois have expressed concerns about the changes that await the state. The already enacted changes include: (1) severe restrictions on when the courts can order even violent offenders to be held in custody prior to trial; (2) procedural obstacles in the ability of judges to issue warrants for offenders who fail to appear in court; and (3) the prohibition of police officers from making any physical arrests for public order crimes like trespassing. Here in this post, we provide two additional interviews as recommended resources.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
IL Public Safety Bad News Ahead
The name of the SAFE-T Act is an acronym, which stands for “Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today.” As we have previously mentioned, there is a long history of politicians naming proposed legislation using catchy (even if misleading) names. Such is the case with this legislation, which contains several provisions that place public safety at risk, rather than advancing it.
As a recommended resource, in August we referred our followers to a key radio interview with two veteran prosecutors. One Republican. One Democrat. During the 20-minute segment, DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow make clear, that across Illinois, the SAFE-T Acts stands to weaken public safety in the months ahead.
Another State’s Attorney’s Warning
Eric Weis is the elected State’s Attorney for Kendall County. On 4 October 2022, he participated in his own extended interview on the Chicago’s Morning Answer radio program. In that more than 40-minute interview (embedded below), he explained that he has filed suit seeking to block the most concerning provisions of the SAFE-T Act.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally were the first to file such a lawsuit in September. By abolishing the cash bail system, the state’s attorneys contend that the SAFE-T Act violates the language in the Illlinois Constitution. Under the state’s constitution, judges are empowered “to set bail or to determine if bail should be denied, and if a person’s criminal history, or the serious of the criminal charge, should require them to remain in custody until they can stand trial.” In discussing his own lawsuit, Weis noted that for the state’s lead prosecutors opposition to the upcoming implementation is not a political issue – it is a public safety issue.
A Sheriff’s Warning
We also recommend listening to the Chicago’s Morning Answer interview (20 minutes) with Winnebago County, Illinois Sheriff Gary Caruana. The sheriff makes it clear, left unchanged, many violent offenders now in custody pending trial will be released from custody on the first day of January. After January, few offenses will be among those that judges could even consider holding an offender in custody.
Sheriff Caruana estimated that he will be required to release approximately 400 of the 800 to 850 individuals currently being held in his county’s jail. He also expressed his concerns that his deputies will have difficulty assisting citizens seeking assistance. The sheriff assessed the coming changes under the SAFE-T Act as follows: “Basically this law is strategically made. The victims have no rights, the criminals have all rights, and law enforcement are the bad guys.”
Public Safety and the Importance of Us
Our August posting was not our first coverage on the SAFE-T Act, passed by the Illinois General Assembly in the dead of night on 13 January 2021. Our founder, first wrote on the passage and consequences of the SAFE-T Act in his article “The Importance of “Us:” The Failure of Being Cast as Them.” The article was published in the February 2021 issue of the National FOP Journal.
In that article, Thomas Lemmer noted that the bill put to a vote in general assembly was rushed, and ignored months of discussions to address reform concerns while not crippling the Illinois justice system. Those discussions involved several state’s attorneys, law enforcement officials, and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a reform advocate and Democrat. Nearly none (or more likely none) of the members of the Illinois General Assembly read the 764-page bill before a majority voted to pass it at the very end of the legislative term.
A Law Rushed for Political Optics
Once the bill passed, even the Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board, advised Governor J.B. Pritzker not sign the bill into law. The Tribune urged the governor and Illinois General Assembly to take more time to approach issues of bail reform more thoughtfully. In its 15 January 2021 editorial, the Tribune advised: “… the purposeful, rapid approval by a lame duck legislature has come under such scrutiny from police. The sweeping changes should not have been passed, and they should not be signed by Pritzker, without more transparent, open debate about the bill’s contents.”
Governor Pritzker ignored the words of caution and signed the bill into law in February 2021. Since that time, prosecutors and police have continued to try to work with the General Assembly in correcting the most damaging aspects of the law. Illinois is now just four weeks from a gubernatorial election. Governor Pritzker has been unyielding to the mounting criticism about the negative impact from the legislation he signed into law. Perhaps, the governor is planning on acting after the election. He would not be the first Illinois politician to change a campaign tune after an election was over.
Bad Public Policy Has Consequences
Without question, America continues to be in the midst of a significant public safety crisis. That crisis is more evident in places like Chicago and Cook County than elsewhere in Illinois. However, we concur with the warnings from 100 Illinois state’s attorneys and countless law enforcement officials. The concerns about the risks to public safety in Illinois that will accompany the full implementation of the SAFE-T Act are real and widespread.
As it stands now, when the act goes into full effect in January 2023, the rest of Illinois will begin to experience far more lawlessness. As we continue to caution, lawless places are inevitably violent ones. Now is a time for community-policing involvement among the citizens of Illinois. Make sure your elected officials in Springfield hear your voices calling for revisions to the SAFE-T Act that are needed to enhance public safety.
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