Illinois Became The First State To Fully Abolish Cash Bail, Here’s What That Means


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By Jessica Washington, The Root

Cash bail is typically higher for Black men than other people (Unsplash/Sasun Bughdaryan)

Criminal justice advocates in Illinois are celebrating a major victory this week. On Monday, Illinois became the first state to fully abolish the cash bail system, meaning defendants will no longer be held in jail because they can’t pay.

The provision of the SAFE-T Act abolishing cash bail went into effect on Monday, revolutionizing the bail process state-wide. But what exactly does it mean to abolish cash bail? The Root has you covered with everything you need to know about the changes.

Cash bail is the money a defendant is required to pay as a deposit for their release from jail. It’s worth noting that bail is paid prior to a trial, meaning the defendant has not been found guilty of a crime.


Defendants and their families who can’t afford bail can get a loan from commercial bail companies in exchange for a premium fee. However, these fees can be astronomical (i.e., a $13,000 fee for financing a $1,000 bond) and can drive already low-income families further into poverty.

Many critics of cash bail also point to the rampant racial disparities within the bail system. People of color are more likely to be assigned cash bail than white defendants. And Black men, on average, are charged significantly higher bail amounts than their white counterparts.

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Black Americans also suffer disproportionate prison sentences.

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