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State, law enforcement officials defend the SAFE-T Act as opposition grows

The Center Square

As the calls grow louder to scrap the controversial justice reform package the SAFE-T Act, Illinois Democrats are on the defensive.

The legislation places restrictions on police and eliminates cash bail on Jan. 1, making Illinois the first state to do so. Lawmakers approved the SAFE-T Act at the urging of the Legislative Black Caucus as part of their response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

A recent panel discussion was held to “dispel myths on ending money bonds” in the state, organizers said.

One of the architects of the law, state Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago) said the crime wave is a byproduct of the current judicial system.

“What we’ve been seeing over the last couple years isn’t happening under anything that we passed, what is happening is under a status quo criminal legal system that is utterly failing,” Peters said.

Over half of the 102 state’s attorneys in Illinois have filed lawsuits against the SAFE-T Act, many of them calling the legislation unconstitutional. They also contend the legislation is too vague, creating problems for the state’s attorneys and law enforcement responsible for enforcing the aspects of it that deal with pretrial release and the elimination of cash bail.

Critics have also said the SAFE-T Act poses unreasonable risks to crime victims by weakening the rules for charged suspects out on electronic monitoring before trial.

Effingham County Sheriff Paul Kuhns said some of the provisions in the SAFE-T Act regarding who can be arrested are concerning.

“I believe in reform and I believe we should always work to be better and more transparent, but I don’t see how that is going to make us any safer when we’re so restricted on who we can take into custody,” Kuhns said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has acknowledged some changes to the act may be needed to clear up widespread confusion.

Staff Reporter Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for The Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.

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