The Illinois Supreme Court announced this week structural changes that will move all pretrial services under the authority of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC). The changes will take place in phases over the next 16 months.
The AOIC will develop and enforce pretrial practice standards across Illinois to support the implementation of the Criminal Justice Reform Act (or SAFE-T Act), which is scheduled to take effect in January 2023. It will also oversee the employment of pretrial officers.
The move is aimed at achieving consistent statewide pretrial practices that are “fair, efficient, transparent, accountable, and adequately resourced using legal and evidence-based practices,” the Court said in a press release. The new structure will also help ease the financial burden on Illinois counties.
“The Illinois Supreme Court supports a pretrial services system that is consistent throughout the state and provides fair and impartial treatment for all,” Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne M. Burke said in the release. “There is a lot of work to be done and we look forward to achieving this goal over the next 16 months and beyond.”
The transition is expected to save money, with costs for the statewide program estimated to be similar to those currently covering pretrial services staffing in only a fraction of Illinois counties.
Implementing best pretrial practices
The decision to implement a new pretrial services structure was, in part, based on years of research into best practices on pretrial reform by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices (Commission).
The Commission published a report in April 2020 detailing its findings and making recommendations for pretrial reform. The report was subsequently approved by the Supreme Court and transferred to the Supreme Court Pretrial Practices Implementation Task Force, which has been meeting regularly since July 2020.
In March 2021, we spoke with retired DeKalb County Judge Robbin Stuckert and Keith Grant of the Lake County Public Defender’s Office, both of whom served on the Commission and Implementation Task Force.
We spoke with Stuckert and Grant about their years of research into pretrial reform, cash bail in Illinois, and the SAFE-T Act.
“In two years, I’d love nothing more than to look at Illinois and say, ‘boy, Illinois got it right,’” said Stuckert, who chaired both the pretrial practices Commission and Implementation Task Force. “They methodically looked at this, they didn’t rush into anything… they looked at barriers and addressed the barriers and they found solutions to a problem.”
This is an emotional issue, Stuckert continued, but we can all come to an understanding and work together to ensure our bail and pretrial practices in Illinois are the gold standards.
- Reimagining Law: The State of Cash Bail in Illinois
- Illinois Pretrial Operational Structure FAQs
- Probation Services – Illinois Courts
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