ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois becomes the first state in the nation to abolish cash bail on Monday, as part of the controversial SAFE-T Act.

And with that, certain offenders in the Winnebago County Jail right now may be turned loose.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley answered questions from the media on Wednesday to explain how the county is preparing for the new law, which would release people arrested for certain crimes without cash bond, prior to their court hearing.

“The jail is not going to empty on September 18th,” he explained. “The … amendments create a system for defense attorneys to file motions, for those motions to be heard, so within probably 3-6 months of September 18th there will be some individuals that are currently in custody who will be released from custody. It’s almost impossible to predict how many that will be, but it’s not going to happen all on September 18th”

Judges have 48 hours from the time a person is arrested to determine if they pose a “real and present threat to the safety of any person or persons or the community”, and therefore should not be released pre-trial. Some of these felonies include second-degree murder, aggravated driving under the influence, and burglary.

Hanley said the court system is working to hire more assistant state’s attorneys (ASAs) to help with the expected workload.

“At last count, I think we’re at 38 full-time ASAs and 6 part-time ASAs. We have 2 law students that will find out if they pass the bar on October 5th, so that would add two,” he said. “So our staffing levels are okay, but it’s always a cause of concern. Some of the other courtrooms are going to suffer because we have to divert resources from the various courtrooms to what will now be preparations for initial appearance court”

According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the cash bail system disproportionately impacts Black and brown communities and other underrepresented or impoverished groups, who can’t afford bond.

The original Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today Act, which was introduced by the Illinois Black Caucus as part of Black legislators’ response to the murder of George Floyd, and was passed by the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives in the early hours of Jan. 13, 2021.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed the bill into law on Feb. 22, 2021, but its implementation was held up after legal challenges were addressed.

Many Illinois law enforcement agencies have warned the act will embolden criminals and make it harder for police to keep offenders off the streets.

State’s attorney’s and law enforcement from across the state filed lawsuits which were consolidated into one in Kankakee County, so any ruling would have immediate effect in all co-signed counties.

The 64 state’s attorneys represent counties including Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago.

The Illinois Supreme Court ultimately upheld the law, which goes into effect on Monday, September 18th.

There will be a Pre-Trial Fairness Act Panel held on Wednesday, September 27, 2023 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Hall, 211. N. Main Street, which will be open to the public.

The objective of the panel will be to explain to the public how this legislation will impact the court system, criminal justice initiatives and the community as a whole.

Hanley, Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana, Winnebago County Public Defender Nick Zimmerman, and 17th Judicial Circuit Court Chief Deputy Clerk Tom Lawson, are expected to participate.