Illinois will soon be the first state in the nation to totally abolish cash bail according to a decision by the Illinois State Supreme Court. Many refer to the state’s new law as “America’s most dangerous,” since authorities in the state are understandably concerned that it would significantly increase crime.
Some argue that cash bail needlessly puts people behind bars while they await trial. But the evidence is clear that eliminating cash bail hurts more people than it helps.
Take, for example how New York City recently eliminated cash bail in a more limited manner. After the bail reform was implemented, more than 72 percent of those arrested with violent felony arrests were rearrested — a 10 percentage point increase in reoffending.
The New York Times reported that, among shoplifting crimes in that city, 327 people were collectively arrested and rearrested over 6,000 times in 2022, which accounted for nearly one-third of all shoplifting crimes in the city. These types of bail “reforms” are what has also led to organized shoplifting crews whose members grow bold knowing that getting caught will lead to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. These crews steal thousands of dollars worth of merchandise to then sell their stolen goods via online marketplaces.
In Yolo County, Calif., the District Attorney found that of 595 people released under their zero-bail policies in 2022, 420 were rearrested. In other words, more than 70 percent of those who benefitted from no cash bail used their newfound freedom to commit more crimes.
By completely eliminating cash bail, cities risk releasing potentially dangerous individuals back into society without any financial incentive to appear for their trials.
This same policy is now set to take effect in a state that is home to a city known as the murder capital of America — Chicago. The lack of self-awareness would be funny if it weren’t so consequential.
Zero-cash bail policies lead to more violent crime that directly hurts victims while also increasing property crimes, which hurt everyday Americans through higher prices. This in turn worsens the effects of inflation, which is already hurting countless families. They have provided one illustration after another of how crime causes poverty.
Higher crime has a disproportionately damaging effect on minority communities and neighborhoods. Studies show that higher crime disproportionately harms non-white youth. Illinois’s adoption of zero-cash bail will thus be especially hard on the state’s 40 percent minority population. This is ironic for a policy that was developed and supposedly adopted in the name of “equity” and anti-racism.
The idea that someone is “innocent until proven guilty” is an important doctrine in American criminal law. It protects average citizens from an overzealous government wishing indiscriminately to throw people in prison in the name of crime and safety.
It would be foolish to ignore the rights of the accused. But as with everything, there is a balance to be struck. The rights of the accused matter as much as the rights of their victims, and should always be balanced. Zero-cash bail tilts the scale dramatically in favor of criminals while leaving the innocent, and especially minority residents, worse off.