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Bail Reform in Chicago Centers on Guns

As the Illinois judiciary and civil rights advocates hash out reform of the state’s unwieldy policies around money bail, officials and police in Cook County and the City of Chicago are hanging their differences on guns. Specifically, whether allowing those awaiting trial on weapons charges to walk free increases the risk to the at-large public.

The Chicago Police Dept. on Monday went live with their online scorecard of gun arrests, showing that around 55 percent of the 1,300 people arrested since May 1st  on felony weapons charges are behind bars. Cops, backed by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, claim that some 13 percent of those that made bond since the year began since have re-offended. They credit tougher bail requirements for holding those facing weapons charges ‘accountable’ as they await trial.

Advocates who are seeking a state-wide end to money bond say the financial cost incurred is magnified in poorer communities. They say reforms made in 2017 don’t go far enough and are pushing for standardization, including with a database of offenses and bonds imposed to help judges. In calling for the dashboard’s removal, the Cook County public defender said this week that those listed appear guilty even as their cases haven’t yet been tried.