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McLean County Sheriff Pushes Pritzker On Ending Cash Bail, Immigration Policy

Uniform wearing sheriff stands with one hand on podium and the right hand gesturing
Colleen Reynolds
WGLT Radio
McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage says Governor J-B Pritzker's proposal to end cash bail would put more dangerous criminals on the streets.

McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage is joining the chorus of law enforcement officials in Illinois who are urging the state not to end cash bail.
“My fear is that if we went to a no bail system, we would have people out on the street recommitting crimes that should have stayed in custody,” Sandage said.

Sandage said on WGLT’s Sound Ideas if there's a problem with judges setting excessive bonds, that's a problem the judiciary should address, not the state legislature. He said he believes judges in McLean County set bail amounts fairly.

Sandage said a 2017 Illinois law that allows people charged with nonviolent offenses to be released early already provides relief for those who can't afford bail. Sandage said some of those cases involving drug suspects have ended tragically. 

“Had they stayed in custody, we could have got them on the right track toward recovery possibly,” Sandage said. “They get out of custody, the first thing they want to do is get high again, and then we end up with overdose deaths.”

The Illinois Sheriff's Association and several law enforcement groups want to meet with the Pritzker administration after the governor proposed eliminating cash bail during his State of the State address. They say New York saw a crime spike after that state ended cash bail.

A spokesperson for the governor's office said Pritzker welcomes scrutiny in how the state approaches cash bail and said the governor is committed to fixing the problem. 

"The governor believes the cash bail system for low- and moderate-risk defendants is broken and the socioeconomic barriers to justice needs to be addressed," Pritzker's press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh said. "We look forward to working with people who want to be at the table to negotiate a solution that makes our criminal justice system and communities safe, equitable and fair." 


Sandage said a new Pritzker administration policy has created a stumbling block for police in their efforts to keep violent felons off the streets.

Sandage and the Illinois Sheriff's Association are slamming the Illinois Department of Corrections’ policy not to tell Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents when an undocumented immigrant is released from prison after serving their sentence. That keeps the feds from transferring the non-citizens from a detention facility so they can be processed for deportation.

“From my personal opinion this is a rush to get a political agenda through without looking at all the consequences,” Sandage said, adding the policy creates a danger by releasing some violence felons back into the general population.

“In the past when they had done their sentence, they would be turned over to ICE for that process to begin. Now they are just turned out onto the streets,” he said. “We are not given notice that they’ve been released, so we don’t know what’s out there running around.”

Speaking on behalf of the ISA, Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey said 223 people who had served their IDOC sentences were transferred to a detention center in Kankakee for immigration processing last year, prior to the new policy. He noted 11 of those felons had been found guilty of murder or attempted murder, 36 were convicted of sexual offenses and 33 were found guilty of weapons offenses.

Immigration advocates say the new policy is consistent with the Illinois Trust Act. It limits coordination between immigration and law enforcement.

State Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington and several other Republican lawmakers are calling for hearings on the matter.

Sandage said Pritzker hasn't shown a willingness to listen to police concerns about legislative issues.

The governor's office said it is working closely with the IDOC to review current policies to ensure the protection of immigrant families and all Illinois communities. 

"No policy enacted in the state of Illinois prevents ICE from doing their work, but this administration has made it abundantly clear that our departments are not going to violate the law so that certain counties can benefit from federal contracts," Abudayyeh said. "The governor has been very clear that Donald Trump's racist policies have no home here in Illinois." 

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Eric Stock is a reporter at WGLT.