Loyola University of Chicago Center for Criminal Justice

The Reforms

In January 2021, the Illinois General Assembly passed House Bill 3653 – an omnibus crime bill known as the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity Act . A part of the Act, referred to as the Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA), fundamentally changes bond court practices and pretrial release in Illinois. The Act abolishes cash bail, prohibits pretrial detention for most defendants, creates new pretrial hearing processes, curtails the conditions that may be placed on defendants released pretrial, and limits revocation and modification of pretrial release.

The Problem

Since the passage of the Act, opponents have argued that the reforms will limit local courts’ ability to detain dangerous defendants or to impose meaningful pretrial release conditions to ensure public safety. In contrast, proponents argue that the reforms will lead to few changes in the number and types of defendants held pretrial; rather, they argue, the reforms will simply reduce the number of people required to pay cash bail to secure release and will reduce the number of days defendants are held before release. Since the bail reforms mandated in the PFA do not take effect until January 2023, it remains unclear what the actual impact of these changes may be. Thus, estimating whether and how the reforms may affect court decision making, pretrial release rates, and jail populations before the law takes full effect is vital to addressing these concerns.

The Project

The goal of the this project is to estimate the potential impact of the PFA Act on bond court outcomes and pretrial release, pretrial detention and jail populations, and the lengths and costs of pretrial detention in Illinois using data from several local and state sources. Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Criminal Justice Research, with support from Arnold Ventures and in partnership with criminal justice agencies across Illinois, will produce a series of research briefs over the next nine months to provide context and insights for discussion of the potential impact of the PFA. By examining data from past practices, the goal of these research briefs will to estimate the potential impact of the PFA on future pretrial practices and outcomes.

About the Center

The Center’s mission is to promote fair, informed, effective and ethical approaches to criminal justice policy and practice through collaborative interdisciplinary research and evaluation, professional leadership development, and targeted projects designed to bring about systemic improvements in Illinois’ criminal justice system.