St. Clair Co. Public Defender’s Office anticipating uptick in workload following end of cash bail in IL

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 10:21 PM CDT
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BELLEVILLE, Il. (KMOV) - Monday marked the end of cash bail in Illinois. Officials in a Metro East county expect the workload in the justice system to increase in response.

As part of the SAFE-T Act, cash bail will be eliminated for individuals jailed for suspected crimes. A judge will now determine if the suspect can be released back into the public under pre-trial conditions.

Under the new law, police must issue citations for suspects accused of low-level misdemeanors. Those individuals will be given a court date and released.

The following offenses will likely keep a suspected offender behind bars: domestic battery, stalking, predatory criminal sexual assault, violations of order of protection, most gun charges and murder.

County officials estimate that as many as 100 people could be released from the St. Clair County Jail by the end of the week.

Some officials is St. Clair County expect workloads to as a result of the new law.

“This is a massive revolutionary change in our law,” said Cathy MacElroy, head of the St. Clair County Public Defender’s Office. “Those people who normally would--posted bond and hire a lawyers after posting that bond are being appointed to us. We’re doing those first appearances in the morning and in the late afternoon in order to capture anybody that maybe came in in the morning before they hit our list, so that we can get them released on those low-level offenses by the end of the day.”

Since public defenders need to respond more quickly, MacElroy told First Alert 4 her department needs more staff to keep up.

“If you’re only giving us budgets that are a third or 25% of what the state’s attorneys are going to get--that’s not equal justice at all,” she added.

MacElroy predicts detainees who don’t get released and get assigned a public defender will spend more time in jail because of the increased workload.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office sent the following funding breakdown to First Alert 4:

• $40 million -- $20 million each -- in funding for the Office of the State Appellate Defender and the Office of the State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor to carry out responsibilities under the new Pre-trial Services Act. (LETSB)

• $30 million for the Law Enforcement Camera Grant Program to provide reimbursement to local law enforcement agencies for in-car cameras, body cameras and data storage. (LETSB)

• $10 million for the Law Enforcement Recruitment and Retention Fund to provide resources to local law enforcement agencies for recruitment of new officers, retention plans, mental health care for officers, safety equipment and training, and improvement in local jails.