Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced today that her office is recommending I-Bonds for defendants who don’t present a risk of violence or flight. Under the new policy, prosecutors will recommend I-Bonds, which allow a person to be released on their own recognizance pending trial, in cases where there is no prior violent criminal history, the current offense is a misdemeanor or low-level felony, and there are no other risk factors suggesting a danger to the community or a failure to appear for court.
The move represents a change from prior practice, in which Assistant State’s Attorneys participated in bond hearings only by reading a proffer of the alleged facts.
“Routinely detaining people accused of low-level offenses who have not yet been convicted of anything, simply because they are poor is not only unjust – it undermines the public’s confidence in the fairness of the system,” said State’s Attorney Foxx. “For too long, prosecutors have abdicated our responsibility by not participating in this process. With this policy change, we recognize the role our office can play in decreasing the overreliance on pre-trial detention.”
In Cook County, people arrested on felony charges are brought to bond court, where a judge determines whether to release them pre-trial on an I-Bond (recognizance bond), set a cash bond, or hold them without bond. Those who receive a cash bond typically must post 10% of that amount to be released, and are held in Cook County Jail if they are unable to pay.
Under the new policy, Assistant State’s Attorneys will recommend I-Bonds in misdemeanor cases and low-level felonies if the defendant has no prior violent criminal history. Offenses for which attorneys will recommend I-Bonds include retail theft, possession of a controlled substance and criminal damage to property. ASAs may recommend conditions to accompany the I-Bond as needed, and retain the discretion to not recommend an I-Bond if there are circumstances that indicate a risk to public safety, such as an elevated risk score on the Public Safety Assessment tool used in felony bond courts.
"The importance of leadership from the State's Attorney's Office in supporting expanded pretrial release cannot be understated," says Malcolm Rich, Executive Director of Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice. "For too long, money has determined who awaits trial in jail and who awaits trial in the community. By supporting non-monetary release (I-Bonds) for many people, State's Attorney Foxx is helping to move Cook County away from a money-based system of pretrial justice."
"I've spent time in jail before trial simply because I couldn't afford bail, and that's not right," says Rev. Dwayne Grant, a pastor in Englewood and a leader with The People's Lobby, a grassroots organization that fights for bail reform. "We are encouraged to see State's Attorney Foxx using her authority to recommend that judges release people who have not been convicted of a crime but who are often being incarcerated because they are too poor to afford the bail assigned to them."
This new policy builds on earlier efforts by the State’s Attorney’s Office to reform the bond system. In March, the State’s Attorney’s Office announced that it was working with the Office of the Cook County Public Defender to file agreed motions for I-Bonds for jail detainees who need to post $1,000 or less to bond out. These efforts also complement Cook County’s participation in the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge, which seeks to decrease the overuse of pretrial detention nationwide through strategies designed to reduce the jail population. Last Friday, the Governor signed into law a bill pushed by State’s Attorney Foxx that ensures low-level, non-violent offenders have their bond reviewed quickly and even lowered if they have not been able to post bond because of financial reasons.