Southern Illinois leaders react to the latest ruling regarding SAFE-T Act

Cash Bail will remain in tact for dozens of Illinois Counties at the start of the New Year, challenging a controversial provision of the SAFE-T Act
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 5:29 PM CST
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - Late in the evening on December 28, a Kankakee County Circuit Court Judge ruled parts of the controversial SAFE-T Act saying it violates the Illinois’ Constitution.

The judge ruled the pretrial release and bail reform provisions of the SAFE-T Act are unconstitutional.

“We just didn’t agree with the way that it was done. And believe that ultimately it was unconstitutional. So I agree with the decision from Kankakee County,” said Joe Cervantez, Jackson County State’s Attorney.

Cervantez is one of the 65 state’s attorneys in Illinois who signed onto the lawsuit, claiming a portion of the Illinois SAFE-T Act legislation is unconstitutional.

“Ultimately the biggest issue for me and I believe for the people of Jackson County and people of the state of Illinois, was how he was going to rule on the cash bail issue. But once again it’s never been about the issue, we’re always open to new ideas and bettering the criminal Justice system especially when it comes to bail,” said Cervantez.

The ruling from a Kankakee County Circuit Judge says the judiciary should have the power to make decisions about pre-trail release and bail. The ruling only applies to the 65 counties that were party to the lawsuit.

In southern Illinois, these counties signed onto the lawsuit.

  • Franklin County
  • Jefferson County
  • Jackson County
  • Perry County
  • Pope County
  • Pulaski County
  • Randolph County
  • Saline County
  • Massac County
  • Union County

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a statement saying, “Today’s ruling is a setback for the principles we fought to protect through the passage of the SAFE-T Act,” Pritzker said. “The General Assembly and advocates worked to replace an antiquated criminal justice system with a system rooted in equity and fairness. We cannot and should not defend a system that fails to keep people safe by allowing those who are a threat to their community the ability to simply buy their way out of jail. I thank the Attorney General for his work on this case and look forward to the Illinois Supreme Court taking up the appeal as soon as possible.”

Local Leaders like Republican State Senator Terri Bryant shared her thoughts on the ruling.

“From the very beginning, the SAFE-T Act was a poorly drafted and inherently flawed law. It was written in the dead of night with so many errors that Democratic lawmakers who originally supported it passed multiple trailer bills in order to ‘fix’ their mistakes.” said Bryant “However, even after all those so-called fixes, the SAFE-T Act was still a fundamentally broken law that put Illinois residents in danger. I am happy to see that the Kankakee County Circuit Judge recognized this and ruled that the pretrial release portion of the Act to be unconstitutional.”

Cervantez says he is in contact with local States Attorneys, all of them wondering how they are really going to implement the SAFE-T Act into their counties.

“We’re in our positions because we know how to do our jobs well and now we find ourselves in this situation where we are all wondering in just a few days what’s our job going to look like,” said Cervantez.

Cervantez also says that he anticipates several more court rulings in a very brief period of time, between now and the first of the year.

Illinois Attorney General Raoul said he intends to appeal the circuit court’s decision directly to the Illinois Supreme Court, where he intends to ask the court to overturn the decision.