CHICAGO (WTVO) — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Tuesday said his office is in discussions about “a number of issues” with the state’s SAFE-T Act.
As first reported by the Chicago Tribune, Raoul, speaking at a Chicago campaign event, said language in the act that defines whether a criminal defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the community will “deserve discussion” before the legislation takes effect.
“We often revisit because we pass legislation that requires a lot of debate,” Raoul, a Democrat, said.
According to the Tribune, some of the attorney general’s talks have been with DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin.
Berlin is among several Republican prosecutors who say Illinois streets will be filled with potentially violent criminals on Jan. 1, when cash bail is eliminated for a dozen offenses like second-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, and burglary. Additionally, he said, there is nothing to say alleged offenders won’t flee before they appear in court.
“Unless (defendants) have a flight ticket out of town, or they tell the police, ‘Hey, if I get out, I’m taking off,’ it will be difficult to prove someone’s a flight risk,” Berlin told the Tribune.
Supporters of the Democrat-crafted SAFE-T Act say it was written to protect poor defendants, allowing those who cannot afford bail to be released on their own recognizance if they are not considered dangerous or a flight risk.
“The single mother, who shoplifted diapers for her baby (and) put in jail for six months because she doesn’t have a couple hundred dollars to pay for bail,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at press conference earlier this month. “That’s what the SAFE-T Act is about.”
Raoul agrees with Pritzker, saying there is no reason to keep low-level offenders locked up while they’re awaiting trial.
“The notion that people are held in jail, sometimes longer than what their eventual sentence would be, because they just cannot afford bail, is nonsensical,” he said.
Raoul said his talks with Berlin and other Republican state’s attorneys have nothing to do with the current political climate.
“We’re of different parties, but we’ve long worked on policy together,” Raoul said. “He and I’ve had conversations on how we may have a discussion about clarifying the law through the legislative process, not through the political fear mongering process.”
Meanwhile, at least three of the state’s 102 top prosecutors have filed lawsuits over the SAFE-T Act’s constitutionality. State’s attorney’s offices in Grundy, Kankakee, and Will counties have named Pritzker and Raoul in their complaints.
An online petition to repeal the act has garnered more than 10,000 signatures as of Wednesday, Sept. 21.