The SAFE-T verdict might just be in!

The SAFE-T verdict might just be in!

Nothing dies harder than a bad idea. – Teacher and Author Julia Cameron

The truth is, both groups harbor a penchant to embrace terrible ideas, but the essential difference between MAGA conservatives and their similarly stilted progressive counterparts is this. The right wingers make no bones about supporting policy that goes directly against the country’s and their own best interest. They revel in their unique brand of Freudian self-destruction.

But while progressives espouse equally bad concepts, they believe they’re the only thing that stands between us and an imminent Caucasian-borne self-immolation. They’ve convinced themselves that only they can save the planet.

The irony, of course, is both groups inevitably end up in the same sad place, it’s just that conservatives are a bit more honest about it. They set out to make things worse and that’s what they do. Progressives set out to make things better, but they only make things worse.

It’s a remarkable bi-partisan proposition, and the SAFE-T/Pretrial Fairness Act, or cashless bail as it’s better known, is a perfect example of that progressive prerogative, particularly the unique Illinois brand.

To be fair, the fat lady has barely begun to warm up on this late 2023 proposition, but as we just stipulated, the underpinnings of progressive ideology are always fraught with poorly thought-out peril. And if the basis for this kind of legal sea change is fatally flawed, then you can extrapolate quite a bit from the new law’s rocky start.

A really good example of this inherent imbalance is the SAFE-T Act’s basic premise that cash bond disproportionately affected poor folks, who couldn’t come up with bail and thus, sat in jail awaiting trial. The problem with that theory is progressives like to lump poor folks into the “victim” category (as opposed to the oppressor class). So, they never considering that this “inequity” is the intractable outcome of more poor people committing more crimes, particularly the violent variety, while being unable to come up with bail money.

If the consequence of a criminal enterprise is sitting in jail awaiting trial, especially in Cook County where criminal cases go to die, perhaps you might want to consider a different career path.

To be fair, like that proverbial broken clock, our left wingers were correct in their assertion that brown and black people got hit with higher bonds than white folks who commit the same crime with similar criminal records. But that issue could’ve been addressed directly without scrapping a cash bail system that wasn’t perfect, but generally worked as intended.

Progressives just love to throw the baby out with the bathwater don’t they?

The clearest indication of the SAFE-T Act missing the mark, if not backfiring outright, is the exponential increase in the number of pretrial detention appeals by which a defendant challenges their bond or remand for being overly onerous.

To wit, 1,981 criminal appeals of all kinds were filed across the five Illinois appellate districts in 2022. But from September 18, 2023, the date the SAFE-T went into effect, to the end of the year, they saw more than 1,300 pretrial detention appeals – ALONE! Considering the 250 annual court business days, that comes out to more than 18 per day, while the 2022 appeals of all kinds amounted to a meager eight per diem.

Yikes!

Some prominent liberal Illinois attorneys correctly noted that one would expect to see an appellate spike whenever a statutory shift of this magnitude is involved, but a 325 percent jump? That entails a whole new definition of the term “legally insane.”

I’ve become very well acquainted with our appellate court system over the years and I guarantee you those justices (never call ‘em judges) are seething over this absurd workload increase. That appeals number will eventually come down, but not by nearly as much as our shortsighted progressive legislators hope it will.

The real inference here is, just as The First Ward predicted, when you distill judicial discretion down to a binary option – ROR or remand – MORE indigent defendants will end up languishing in jail pending trial and not fewer less. And that’s exactly what’s happening in the great State of Illinois where bad ideas come to flourish.

Here’s a perfect example as reported by Capitol Fax.

In October, a month after the law took effect, a Livingston County judge issued the following ruling in regard to remanding a defendant who’d been charged with soliciting a 14-year-old:

As I stated earlier, before the Pretrial Fairnesses [sic] Act, I would have given the Defendant a reasonable monetary bond that would have taken into consideration the factors that I have just enumerated here that raise concern about the Defendant having contact with any child under the age of 18 within this community; and I believe that that monetary bond would have taken into consideration his ability to pay. The Defendant may or may not have been able to post that. However, that would have served as a very strong deterrent for the Defendant; and the risk of losing that bond money has historically proven to provide a good incentive for people to not continue to engage in criminal behavior.

And since I do not have that incentive because the legislature, governor and Illinois Supreme Court have taken that discretion away from me and because the Defendant meets the dangerousness standard by clear and convincing evidence, I am ordering that he be detained pending trial.

Exactly! Whenever you take away a judge’s discretion, they’ll almost always err on the side of caution – with a little spite thrown in for good measure. 

As you might imagine, the defendant appealed that decision and the Fourth District agreed, ruling the trial judge “improperly focused on its ‘disdain’ for the statutory changes as opposed to the issue at hand.” They also noted that electronic court monitoring was readily available.

But by the time the fourth district reversed it, the defendant had already spent two months in the slammer and he had to pay his attorney to file the appeal, too! Appeals are no inexpensive proposition, either. And the fact that the appellate court ordered a new pre-trial hearing was no guarantee that the judge wouldn’t simply come up with another means of remanding him.

Worse yet, for those indigent incarcerated souls who can’t afford an attorney, guess who foots that pretrial detention appeal public defender bill? That’s right! You and me! And I guarantee you that all of then entities involved – state’s attorneys, public defender’s office, and the appellate courts are clamoring for more staff just to handle this absurdity. And who pays those new hire’s salary? Never mind, you already know.

Then it’s the kind of rinse, lather, and repeat by which defendants spend more money and more time in jail than before the Act was implemented. So, why was this turn of events so predictable? We’ll discuss that in part two on Tuesday. 

 

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