New Bond Policy Could Cut Jail Population by Half

Monday, September 18, 2017, Contact Kristi Sanford, 773-456-4024 or

On Day One of Cook County’s New Bail Order and Pretrial Division,
Anti-Mass Incarceration Activists Rally to Demand Effective Implementation

At 12:00 pm on Monday, September 18, at the Cook County Courthouse (2600 S. California) activists will hold a rally to demand effective implementation of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ new general order that aims to significantly reduce the number of people incarcerated while awaiting trial. General Order 18.8A instructs judges to set monetary bonds only in amounts that people can pay, potentially eliminating incarceration due solely from inability to pay bond. Right now, more than 4,000 of the 7,500 people in Cook County Jail have been ordered released but remain in custody only because they lack access to the money needed to pay their bonds. Today, Judge Evans announced the names of judges that will serve in his new “Pretrial Division,” replacing all former bond court judges.

“We applaud Judge Evans’ order, but the devil is in the details of implementation and compliance by judges,” said Rev. Charles Straight, a leader with The People’ Lobby. “We will be watching to make sure judges in bond court follow the intended process and set money bonds only in amounts that people can actually afford to pay.”

“Crime and violence are real problems in many neighborhoods and suburbs, especially poor areas where residents are living with high unemployment and decades of disinvestment, but incarceration is not the solution. Jailing people before trial destroys lives and harms communities,” said John Powe, a leader with The People’ Lobby. “Instead, state and local government should invest in these communities, creating social services, good jobs and high-quality schools.”

In August 2017, more than 80 volunteers with the Coalition to End Money Bond spent nearly 400 hours observing bond court in order to document current conditions and to provide a basis for evaluating the impact of Chief Judge Evans’ new order. “Initial documentation by the courtwatchers confirms what impacted communities and advocates have been saying for years: there is no consistency and no fairness in Cook County bond court,” said Sharlyn Grace, the senior criminal justice policy analyst at Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice. Volunteer courtwatchers will return to Central Bond Court this week and one week per month into the foreseeable future to document compliance with Chief Judge Evans’ order.

Each year, thousands of Cook County residents — mostly African American — are incarcerated prior to trial only because they are too poor to afford to pay bond, undermining a core American value that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.


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