On Monday, the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill. issued an order stating that judges are prohibited from setting bails higher than a defendant can afford.
For felony defendants, this will begin Sept. 18, but those facing misdemeanor cases will have to wait until January.
“I think people who are arrested will be given the full recognition that they are presumed innocent,” Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans, who signed the order for the new policy, told the Chicago Tribune.
To determine the financial abilities of the defendant, they will be interviewed about their financial resources. That information will then be relayed to the judge, who will determine a bail that the defendant has the current ability to pay.
Defendants who are currently held in jail with too high of bails can have judges re-evaluate their bail amounts after the policy takes effect.
“Chicago is now the largest place in the country to eradicate wealth-based detention,” said Alec Karakatsanis, the founder and executive director of Civil Rights Corps.
Advocates for bail reform are pleased with this new policy. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx showed support for the change.
“There is often no clear relationship between the posting of a cash bond and securing the safety of the community or the appearance of a defendant,” Foxx said. “As a result, far too many people have been detained pre-trial because they are poor and unable to post even minimal amounts for bond.”
It is not determined how this new policy will affect jail populations according to Cara Smith, chief policy officer for Sheriff Tom Dart. Smith also said that as many as 400 people sit in the jail because they cannot afford to pay their $1,000 bail.
Advocates say that although other cities have implemented bail reform, the movement in Cook County could be momentous.