Cook County, Il., Chief Judge Timothy Evans for months has defended the bail reform he ordered by citing an analysis produced by the office he runs. His report said Chicago saw no increase in violent crime after judges began implementing those reforms by reducing or eliminating monetary bail for many pretrial defendants. Far more of these defendants were released from custody, yet only “a very small fraction” were charged afterward with a new violent offense, the report states. A Chicago Tribune investigation found flaws in both the data underlying Evans’ report and the techniques he used to analyze it — issues that minimize the number of defendants charged with murder and other violent crimes after being released from custody under bail reform.
One central conclusion by Evans was that only 147 felony defendants released from custody in the 15 months after bail reform went on to be charged with new violent crimes, or 0.6 percent of the total. He called this a “rare” occurrence. Evans’ definition of violent crime, while acceptable to criminologists under some circumstances, was limited to six offenses and excluded numerous others, including domestic battery, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, battery, armed violence and reckless homicide. Hundreds of these charges were filed against people released after bail reform took effect, according to data Evans provided after the Tribune filed a public records petition to the Illinois Supreme Court. If those charges were included in the analysis, the total would be at least four times higher, the newspaper found. The Tribune identified 21 defendants who allegedly committed murder after being released from custody in the 15 months after bail reform. Evans’ report said there were three.