The Illinois bond system has become a revolving door for the defendants who pose the greatest threat to public safety: violent gang members arrested on gun charges, the Chicago Tribune reports. While police and politicians have pressed for harsher prison sentences for those convicted of gun crimes, often those arrested many times on felony weapons charges cycle in and out of jail before their trials, easily posting bond with suspected gang money, only to commit new crimes long before their original case is resolved. A Tribune analysis of five years of booking data at Cook County Jail found that at least 1 in 10 of those who were arrested and bonded out on gun charges committed serious crimes within a year, and then were bonded out of jail yet again. The vast majority of suspects were arrested on new gun charges.
The analysis also found that gang members facing felony gun charges had little problem coming up with the cash to get out of jail, while nonviolent thieves and others languished behind bars, unable to post much lower bonds. Prosecutors rarely ask where the money came from. By contrast, in major drug cases, they routinely request hearings to determine the source of bail money. A review of 50 gun cases from 2012 through 2016 with the highest bond amounts uncovered four instances in which tens of thousands of dollars were posted by people who had recently filed for bankruptcy, and one instance in which a relative said $20,000 in bond money came from recent casino winnings. State Sen. Bill Cunningham has introduced a bill that would allow for a defendant to be held without bail in a variety of gun crimes if a judge determines that releasing the defendant back into the community would create “a real and present threat” to public safety.