The Illinois SAFE-T Act–What You Need To Know


Kylie Pearman, Staff Writer

Illinois is soon to make history by becoming the first state to abolish cash bail for certain crimes. The monumental SAFE-T Act, signed into law in 2021 by Governor J.B. Pritzker, will go into effect on January 1st, 2023. With the announcement of this new bill, rumors have quickly begun circulating on social media. Here is what you need to know about this new step toward criminal justice reform.

The SAFE-T Act was drafted with the intention of “preventing wealthy criminals from easily getting bail”, as said by J.B. Pritzker. A primary focus of this bill is to eliminate the wealth-based advantages present in the system of pretrial detention–being held in jail before getting convicted in a court of law–and instead begin creating a system tailored to the situations of each individual offender. With this new system, each case presented to the court will be considered by judges on a case-by-case basis, determining whether or not the offender should be held in jail before they are convicted in a trial. 

With this new law, incorrect interpretations of the bill have gained publicity and popularity on social media. These interpretations include infographics that state things like “offenders who commit heinous crimes (homicide, kidnapping, assault) will not be detained”. These statements have resulted in widespread misinformation, outrage, and fear among Illinois residents. In reality, the SAFE-T Act will only deny pretrial detention to low-risk offenders accused of committing misdemeanors and petty crimes, like shoplifting or traffic offenses. 

However, this act is not all about eliminating cash bail. The 764-page bill also introduces new laws that are intended to put an end to systemic racism and general inequity within the justice system. Some of these laws include prohibiting chokeholds by police officers, requiring the use of body cameras for police officers, increasing services and treatment for pregnant prisoners, and requiring medical treatment for prisoners and detainees without unreasonable delay. These are just a few among various measures that are going to be implemented starting next year. Many think that this act could lead to more crime and danger within our communities–but others consider this to be a great step toward equality and fairness within our justice system.