File Photo – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker | Photo: Illinois Information Service

After an Illinois state’s attorney said the SAFE-T Act would be the “greatest jailbreak” in history, Gov. JB Pritzker rebuked the claim and said offenders of serious crimes will not be able to “buy their way out of jail.”

Madison County State’s Attorney Thomas Haine said in an open letter to residents earlier this month that the “greatest jailbreak” in history would occur on January 1 when the SAFE-T Act goes into effect fully.

Haine said half of the jail population in Madison County — over 100 inmates — will be required to be released.

Many of the inmates released will be awaiting trial for crimes such as aggravated driving under the influence, aggravated battery and burglary.

Haine said many of those expected to be released are repeat offenders and previously failed to appear in court or comply with the conditions of their release.

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“A critical part of our current criminal justice system is our ability to detain some criminal defendants prior to trial when appropriate. This protects witnesses and victims, stops repeat offenders, and allows a swifter resolution to cases,” Haine said in the letter.

The state’s attorney said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s office has made false statements about state’s attorneys being able to request defendants held without bond once the new legislation is in place.

Haine said prosecutors will only be able to ask a judge to hold a limited group of defendants without bond.

Pritzker sent a letter to Haine on Friday in response and said Haine is defending a “criminal justice status quo” where accused murderers, domestic batterers, rapists, and other dangerous criminals “can buy their way out of jail pending trial if they have enough money.”

“Your approach – seeking to deter possible future crimes by punishing individuals accused of less serious offenses before they have the opportunity to defend themselves in court – is contrary to the foundation of our justice system and based on outdated research that has been debunked,” Pritzker said.

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Pritzker said that the cash bail system contributes to a justice system that disproportionately punishes Black and Brown citizens.

“The SAFE-T Act ensures that those charged with domestic abuse, murder, rape, and other serious crimes cannot buy their way out of prison – as they can right now – because it bases detention on risk rather than wealth. That’s why domestic violence advocacy organizations support ending cash bail , including the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who referred to it as reform that prioritizes the safety of survivors,” the governor said.

Pritzker called out Haine for claiming certain offenses become non-detainable under the SAFE-T Act.

“But your reading of the law has been debunked by multiple non-partisan fact checkers, including the Associated Press, Snopes, and Politifact. Nevertheless, in the interest of justice and safety, I will explain the fallacy in your reading of the law,” Pritzker said.

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The governor said state attorneys have “several options for detention” when it comes to defendants who commit offenses such as second-degree murder and aggravated driving under the influence.

“Prosecutors may present evidence that the defendant poses a threat to public safety if the forceable felony involved a family member or domestic violence,3 or that the defendant used a gun.4 Furthermore, there is nothing in the SAFE-T Act that prevents prosecutors from using their discretion to charge repeat offenders with higher level felonies when the facts indicate it is appropriate. Under this system, risk, not wealth, determines whether these defendants will be detained prior to their trial,” Pritzker said.