Illinois Supreme Court adopts policy statement for pretrial services

By Russell Boniface | May 16, 2017

The Illinois Supreme Court has adopted a statewide policy statement for pretrial services that includes a risk assessment tool to help courts determine whether low-risk defendants should be detained or released prior to trial.

The Illinois Supreme Court has adopted a statewide policy statement for pretrial services that includes a risk assessment tool to help courts determine whether low-risk defendants should be detained or released prior to trial.

The statement adopted by the Supreme Court provides for pretrial services in each of Illinois' 24 judicial circuits.

“This policy statement seeks to serve as a guide for all of our trial courts," Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier said in an announcement. "The goal of pretrial services is to reduce the pretrial incarceration rate while ensuring that defendants comply with approved pretrial release.”

The Illinois pretrial risk assessment tool will allow state courts to decide if low-risk, non-violent defendants should remain in custody or be released on bond while their cases move through the criminal justice system.

While the statement acknowledges that high-risk offenders and those who fail to appear in court should remain in custody, the policy states that “people who are low-risk and non-violent should not remain in jail solely because they cannot afford bail.”

The new risk assessment tool is evidence-based and will help judges make release decisions based upon a defendant’s level of risk.

In a statement, Michael J. Tardy, Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, said the new policy “serves as a principled pillar to guide governance and oversight of pretrial services."

A risk assessment tool called the Public Safety Assessment has been tested in Cook, Kane and McLean counties with positive results.

Cook County currently reports that assessments have reduced its jail population from 9,543 in July 2014 to 8,112 in August 2016, while the percentage of defendants who have had assessments has risen from 53 percent in May 2014 to 96 percent in August 2016.

In Kane County, assessments have increased from just eight in 2015 to 3,219 between January and October 2016. McLean County assessments have also risen, with 1,249 assessment done from January to August 2016, up from 312 assessments completed from January to August 2015.

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