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Report Measures Impact of Eliminating Cash Bail In Illinois

Bond process fee revenue.jpg
Supreme Court of Illinois
Circuit Court Clerks in 95 Illinois counties get about 11% of their general revenue from bond processing fees, according to analysis by the Chicago Civic Federation.

A new report from the Chicago Civic Federation shows most county circuit court clerks in Illinois will lose about 11% of their general fund fee revenue when cash bail is eliminated in 2023.

Bond payments can go to a variety of things, including court-ordered fees, fines, restitution, and bond processing fees. It's this last category that helps fund circuit clerk operations.

According to a five-year analysis from the Chicago Civic Federation for a Pretrial Practices Implementation Task Force commissioned by the Illinois Supreme Court, the statewide total in bond processing fees ranged from about $4.9 million in 2020 to $14.9 million in 2016. Data was provided by 95 Illinois counties

The Civic Federation is an independent, nonpartisan government research organization.

bond processing fees.jpg
Illinois Supreme Court

The findings focused on bond money processed and disbursed at the conclusion of a criminal case, and how clerks of circuit courts distribute those bond amounts — not money collected at pre-trial release. There was a total of $121.9 million in applied bond payments statewide last year. That figure is lower than usual because the pandemic allowed fewer cases to go through the system. In 2016, the total was $153.2 million.

Supporters of the elimination of cash bail said it penalizes poorer defendants disproportionately. The Civic Federation found that in the last five years, only 20% percent of total bond payments were refunded. On average over this period, 58% of bond payments were distributed to county-specific fees, while the remaining 42% of bonds applied to fees were directed to other state or municipal fees.

Illinois is the first state to completely remove the use of money in pretrial release procedures.

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