Comprehensive, sustainable reform takes courage, patience, diligence and faith. Building upon the Bail Reform Act of 2017, the General Assembly recently passed additional reforms of the state’s pretrial detention system. Importantly, the legislation includes a delayed effective date on many of its key provisions. This additional time will be critical to establish an effective statewide pretrial system to support these changes and ensure that individuals who pose a threat to public safety are detained pretrial.

The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices recognizes that for far too long our criminal justice system has criminalized poverty by often detaining low-level, nonviolent offenders simply because they cannot afford bail. A large percentage of accused persons who enter the criminal justice system are indigent, facing economic obstacles. The General Assembly is commended for addressing these difficult issues.

In December 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of creating and convening the Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices, a multidisciplinary body comprised of criminal justice stakeholders from all three branches of government. The commission was charged with providing guidance and recommendations regarding comprehensive pretrial reform in the Illinois criminal justice system.

The Supreme Court’s directive placed Illinois among the leaders in a long and overdue national movement to rethink and improve effective and fair bail decisions and enact transformative pretrial practices.

The commission met for two years, studied national best practices, consulted pretrial reform experts from across the nation, held public forums, and collected feedback from stakeholders throughout Illinois. The commission issued its Final Report in April 2020 which contained a broad range of legislative and policy recommendations to bring about pretrial reform in Illinois.

Last summer, the Supreme Court established a task force to implement these recommendations. The task force, like the commission, is bipartisan and multidisciplinary. It has met biweekly since its creation.

Members of the task force were also in discussion with legislators and advocates regarding proposed criminal justice reform legislation. While we may not have agreed on everything, we listened to one another and worked to align the pretrial aspects of this bill as much as possible with the recommendations in the commission’s Final Report. I was honored to provide testimony before the Illinois House and Senate during subject matter hearings regarding HB3653.

Going forward, the Supreme Court has directed the task force to assume a leadership role regarding the implementation of this historic and courageous legislation. We will prepare guidance and training on the bill’s pretrial provisions and will identify areas in the bill for which amendatory language must be considered.

We look forward to continued dialogue with the legislative authors and we will work tirelessly to ensure comprehensive and sustainable pretrial reform is implemented throughout Illinois.

Robbin Stuckert

Presiding judge, 23rd Judicial Circuit

Chair, Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices

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