On one of the most politically and emotionally charged issues of the campaign, candidates for House districts in the south and southwest suburbs have mixed views on whether the aspirations of a sweeping criminal justice reform law will meet reality.
Some candidates say the law has provisions that will do more to keep alleged violent suspects locked up pending trial, while others see it as potentially boosting crime rates.
The Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today law is intended, supporters argue, to promote greater police accountability and pave the way for a more equitable court system.
Proponents say elimination of cash bail addresses a long-standing problem that keeps poorer defendants, primarily people of color, locked up while awaiting trial because they don’t have the means to post bond.
Starting Jan. 1, judges will weigh several factors, including the threat a defendant poses to the public, in deciding which defendants should remain in custody pending trial.
State’s attorneys in Kankakee and Will counties have filed lawsuits, contending Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other top state Democrats violated the state constitution in pushing through the SAFE-T Act, which Pritzker signed into law in February 2021.
Changes to the law could be considered by the General Assembly when it convenes for the fall veto session Nov. 15, after the Nov. 8 General Election.
Several candidates responded to questions about the law sent by the Daily Southtown. Not all candidates returned completed questionnaires.
Republican candidate Patricia Bonk said the law in its current form “makes law enforcement less effective and jeopardizes our safety.”
Democrat Fran Hurley, whose 35th District is home to many Chicago police officers, said she voted against the legislation. She said she had spoken with officials throughout law enforcement who raised concerns.
Hurley said the law is in need of many alterations, and