- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Several officials in central Illinois have said they don’t agree with the Cook County sheriff’s idea to abolish the state’s cash-bond system.

Under current state law, judges set bonds to ensure defendants show up for court and don’t pose a danger to the community, the State Journal-Register (https://bit.ly/2h7ueOF ) reported.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Illinois’ current system isn’t fair to low-level defendants who can’t afford to pay, and that it’s dangerous when defendants with violent backgrounds are freed until trial.

According to Dart’s policy director, Cara Smith, there is a plan that’s being drafted by the sheriff’s office that would allow judges to assess whether a defendant should be in custody or released under certain conditions, such as electronic monitoring.

Officials in Sangamon and Christian counties said the current system works, and that judges do a good job of weighing factors, including a suspect’s criminal history or ability to pay, when setting bond.

They also noted that smaller, downstate counties can move people through the system faster.

Bail is a revenue stream for counties. In order to assist judges to make decisions and improve monitoring of those freed pending trial, Illinois would need to invest in more court services.

Currently, judges can allow a “recognizance bond,” in which no payment is required. In cases where a cash bond is required, the defendant will pay 10 percent as bail and can be released before trial.

Former judge Roger Holmes said he would worry a new system would take a judge’s discretion.

“I felt that I had all the alternatives I needed and had ability to release without cash bond and did so when appropriate,” he said.

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