Now is the time to shoot. The season has turned to fall. The weather is getting colder. The leaves, in their wisdom, also begin to turn.
In the sacred calendar of the Jewish people, which we four authors celebrate this year together in beloved community, we now turn to our best selves as we move from the great holy day of Leviticus of Rosh Hashanah to the great day of atonement. , Yom Kippur . Now is the time to transform our society into a place of tranquility and opportunity for all of God’s children.
Now is not the time to give up on the important strides we have made to advance the cause of justice and peace.
Turning back time and shrinking our state is precisely what a handful of bad actors are trying to convince us Illinois people to do. Despite our work to dismantle structural racism, these public figures would make us rebuild the shackles of injustice.
Across the state, right-wing politicians and activists are waging a vigorous disinformation campaign about a vital criminal justice reform bill that will go into effect in Illinois in January. The Pretrial Fairness Act, part of the broader SAFE-T Act passed in early 2021, is a landmark bill that will move the state’s criminal justice system toward fairness and the responsibility. The SAFE-T Act was specifically designed to undo decades of structural racism in our state’s legal system.
As people of faith, we know that everyone, regardless of race or income, deserves access to rights such as housing, education, health care and employment. It should be the same with freedom. However, long-established bond and bail systems impede economic and racial justice because only those with the means can buy their freedom. The Pretrial Fairness Act asserts that access to wealth will no longer determine whether someone is imprisoned pending trial.
This legislation fits perfectly with the themes of the major Jewish holidays. The highest holy day in Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur, calls us to atone for our sins so that we can begin the process of reconciliation and renewal in the new year. The elimination of cash bail through the Pretrial Fairness Act is an important first step towards reconciliation by renewing the criminal justice system and restoring the presumption of innocence.
Research demonstrates that pretrial incarceration impedes people’s access to employment, education and other vital support systems while increasing recidivism rates. The goal of the Pretrial Fairness Act is to transform these systems and make our communities safer. Cash bail and mass incarceration work hand in hand to disproportionately keep black people and black people – especially black men – in the system, even if they are presumed innocent.
Contrary to the lies told by politicians such as State Rep. Jim Durkin that the Pretrial Fairness Act will “unleash drug cartels on the streets of Illinois,” judges will always have the ability to determine whether the accused is a threat to society or a flight risk. This means that people accused of violent crimes or crimes, such as burglary, domestic violence or crimes involving the use of a firearm, can remain detained until their trial. Statements that those arrested will simply be released from jail before trial without any consideration are whistles to prevent much-needed reforms to the system. Reports continually show that bail reform leads to an overall decrease in crime rates.
To be perfectly clear: Judges retain the right to hold dangerous criminal suspects in prison before their trial. It is incredibly dishonest of people to claim before the law is enacted that it will be too difficult for the judges or that it is unlikely to happen. It’s just fear to win votes. It is up to judges and elected officials to ensure that preventive incarceration in necessary cases occurs.
Also, despite many claims to the contrary, this aspect of the SAFE-T law, which has not yet gone into effect, cannot be blamed for an increase in a particular type of crime that has occurred in our city. or our state.
If politicians are truly concerned about protecting the safety of families and communities in Illinois, we invite them to join our efforts to eradicate the root causes of violence and end the cycles of poverty and oppression in our cities. We invite them to provide vigorous and sustained programs of employment, education and investment for the long-suffering disinvestment of communities. We invite them to join us at St. Sabina Catholic Church on the evening of October 18 to learn more about this important legislation that will soon be law.
We are tired of politicians and pundits who, instead of implementing the necessary changes, attack monetary bonds. We know that cash bail has long been a tool used to create intentional barriers that restrict people’s basic rights. The cycles of poverty, violence and corruption will only persist if we do not grant everyone the right to due process. The old bail system cemented the circumstances in which the wealthy can buy their way out of jail while others are left behind and lost in the system. Every human being, regardless of wealth, deserves the right to reconcile their misdeeds; pre-trial incarceration with cash bail does not allow for this most fundamental fairness of liberty.
The Pretrial Fairness Act is the culmination of more than five years of work that includes advice and input from legal experts, attorneys and law enforcement. This legislation is well thought out; the implementation process has already started in good faith. Misinformation campaigns surrounding the Pre-Trial Fairness Act and the end of cash bail have over-politicized the bill in an effort to cover up the uneven enforcement of current incarceration practices. If we are to usher in a society in which everyone can live freely with human dignity, we must support policies centered on justice and mercy.
In this turnaround season, let’s not go back to the economic injustice of cash bail and monetary bail.
Chicago religious leaders Rabbi Seth M. Limmer and Revs. Michael Pfleger, Ciera Bates-Chamberlain and Otis Moss III joined the opinion section of the Tribune this summer to a series of columns on potential solutions to the chronic problem of gun violence in Chicago. The column continues occasionally.
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