Supreme Court Commission Releases Recommendations for Pretrial Reform

pretrial reformThe Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices has released a final report on pretrial reform in the Illinois criminal justice system. The report, which was published on April 2, includes recommendations for modifying state law, Supreme Court rules and policies, and circuit court systems, practices, and procedures, to create a more fair and effective system.

The recommendations aim to “balance the defendant’s presumption of innocence and due process while protecting the public, assuring court appearance, and maintaining the integrity of the court.” According to Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne M. Burke, the Court will now take the report under consideration and determine the next steps to enact pretrial reform in Illinois.


The Commission identified 54 recommendations that are designed to 1) ensure a fair, efficient, transparent, accountable, and adequately-resourced system of pretrial services; 2) use legal evidence-based practices; and 3) develop an operational structure that is guided by the National Institute of Corrections’ “A Framework for Pretrial Justice: Essential Elements of a High Functioning Pretrial System and Agency.”

The recommendations call for an independent pretrial services agency and fall into areas including arrest and pre-arraignment decisions, preventative detention, pretrial risk assessment, and pretrial supervision and conditions, among others. They also include the establishment of performance-based measurements to analyze the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in administering pretrial practices, legislative action to ensure statutes are consistent with pretrial justice, and the development of an education and training program for all stakeholders.

Background on the Commission

The Commission was formed in 2017 in response to data demonstrating inferior outcomes for individuals held in jail before trial. These include a higher risk of unemployment, higher rates of sentence disparity, and a greater likelihood of reoffending.

The Commission, which was made up of criminal justice stakeholders and members of all three branches of Illinois government, was tasked with conducting a comprehensive review of Illinois’ pretrial detention system and making recommendations to ensure pretrial practices in all jurisdictions are consistent with the Supreme Court’s Policy Statement on Pretrial Services.

Over a period of two years, the Commission studied best practices from around the country, consulted pretrial reform experts, conducted public hearings across the state, and analyzed academic and professional resources on pretrial reform. In moving Illinois from a resource-based system of justice to one that is risk-based, the Commission’s goal was to minimize the effects of monetary conditions of release in the criminal justice system while maximizing public safety, court appearance, and appropriate release.

A preliminary report was issued in December 2018.

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