[3/2/21] – Illinois Governor Signs Sweeping Criminal Justice Reform Bill Abolishing Cash Bail in the State

On Monday, February 22nd, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker signed House Bill 3653, a sweeping package of criminal justice measures, which includes provisions for policing, police certification and decertification procedures, prison and sentencing, crime victims compensation, and traffic fines. Included also amongst the other provisions is the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act, which has been referred to as some as the centerpiece of the bill. The act, which abolishes cash bail in the state, will make Illinois the first state in the country to put an end to the controversial practice.

The bill was sponsored and pursued by a caucus of Black state legislators after the killing of George Floyd and protests that followed and was supported by Governor Pritzker who stated at the signing that “this legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state our nation, and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness, and true justice.” Other supporters included criminal justice reform advocates who argue that cash bail is a “poor people’s tax” that disproportionally impacts Black and Latino defendants. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Black and Latino men are assessed higher bail amounts than white men, with Black men paying 35% more than white men and Latino men paying 19% more than white men. Opponents of the abolishment of cash bail, on the other hand, argue that limiting or eliminating cash bail increases crime and that the bill will put both the public and law enforcement officers at risk.

Other states have made the effort to limit the practice of cash bail, such as New Jersey, New York, and Alaska, which rolled back or amended bail reforms. But, as of today, Illinois remains the first state to “strike” cash bail out completely. Unlike some of the other provisions in House Bill 3653 that are scheduled to go into effect on July 1st of this year, the “no cash bail” policy will not be implemented until January 2023.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom.

The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.



  • Writing: Explain the significance of the HB 3653 bill and the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act. 
  • Debate: According to opponents of the bill, the limiting or elimination of cash bail leads to increases in crime. Do you believe that releasing people pretrial harms public safety?
  • Poll: The cash bail system in the United States criminalizes poverty. (Agree or Disagree).
  • Short Answer: Discuss the arguments for and against the abolishment of cash bail. 

Cover Image: © iStockphoto.com/YingYang

Which component of the criminal justice system would you like to see more coverage of in future Lecture Sparks?

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