Cashless Bail and Flight Risk

Illinois has passed its cashless bail law, euphemistically styled the SAFE-T Act (Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act—how cute, how misleading). This is a law that will allow lots of suspects accused of violent crimes to walk without even needing a hearing—an Illinois magistrate can simply release the suspect, functionally, on his own word that he’ll appear in court when called to do so.

Supporters of the law, set to take effect at the beginning of next year, point out it does not prohibit detention and that anyone deemed a flight risk can be detained.

This is as cynical as it is disingenuous.

The degree of flight risk isn’t the only factor that should be used in assessing bail amounts; it isn’t even the most important. What’s central to bail consideration, or should be central, is the nature of the crime alleged and the degree of risk to the people in the local community from having the accused walking free among them.

A man accused of a violent crime needn’t flee in order to commit (further) violent crimes; indeed, most crimes (like politics) are local. And now he has a collection of targets in the local area against whom to commit further violence: witnesses against him, and their families.

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