Too Many People Jailed Before Trial, Bond Reformers Say

Craig Dellimore
September 18, 2018 - 4:02 pm
Jail Bars

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A year after a landmark court order in Cook County, some court-reform activists say there are still too many people being held behind bars just because they are too poor to pay their bond.

Sharlyn Grace, Executive Director of the Chicago Community Bond Fund, on Monday said Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans’ general order limiting cash bonds did what it was supposed to -- at first.

It reduced the number of poor people who are jailed while awaiting the disposition of their cases, Grace said.

That has changed, though, say officials with the Chicago Community Bond Fund.

Gradually, they say, judges have started holding more people pending trial -- people who can’t afford their bail.

Devoureaux Wolf, advocate organizer with the Chicago Community Bond Fund, speaks with reporters as co-executive Director Sharlyn Grace looks on. /WBBM Newsradio

More than 2,700 people are presently incarcerated in Cook County Jail solely because they are unable to pay money bonds, the organization said.

Devoureaux Wolf, an advocate organizer, was held on bail in the past. He said people don’t realize how devastating that can be.

He said while he was awaiting disposition of his case --for 3 1/2 months -- he could have lost his job and his apartment, all because he couldn't afford to be free on bond.

A spokesperson for the Chief Judge’s Office cites figures that show most people the bond fund is counting had records of violence, use of weapons or other factors making cash bond appropriate. Most people are being released on their own recognizance, pending trial, the spokesperson said.