Why the end of cash bail is good for Illinois survivors

Madeleine Behr (left) is policy manager at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation and Amanda Pyron (right) is executive director of The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence.

As advocates who work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence, we’ve seen the horrific physical and mental damage caused by these crimes, and we’ve seen how the criminal legal system often has failed survivors. However, change for the better is coming due to Gov. Pritzker’s signature on criminal justice reform legislation (HB 3653) that will end cash bail.

Policies rooted in fear-mongering and racism have never actually served survivors, yet too many people continue to push an agenda that perpetuates a criminal legal system that fails victims and disproportionately harms Black and brown communities.

In our work, we regularly see survivors seeking help and justice from law enforcement. And we continually see them turned away, disbelieved and discounted.

Our research found that Chicago police did not make any arrests in 80-90% of sexual assaults reported in the last decade. Similar inaction allows dangerous abusers to possess firearms. An investigation by the Chicago Tribune found more than 34,000 Illinois residents had their right to own a gun revoked by the courts, yet they haven’t turned over their weapons or had them confiscated by law enforcement. Nearly 80% of these people may still be armed.