But huge numbers of those detained languish behind bars for days, weeks or months simply because their bail exceeds their financial means. Meanwhile, other defendants charged with the same offenses walk free because they have the money to buy their way out.
Those unjust realities have spawned a movement to eliminate cash bail for most defendants, replacing them with “personal recognizance bonds” — a signed promise to appear in court. Among the jurisdictions that have adopted the change is Cook County, which, in 2017, began using money bonds less often, while reducing the amounts on those it imposed.
But this year, Chicago has been hit with a tidal wave of shootings and homicides, and critics — notably Police Superintendent David Brown — immediately blamed those bail reforms. If more arrestees were required to provide money for bail, the argument goes, fewer of them would be released and the community would