As violent crime in Chicago has been rising, police have pointed to people being freed on bail as a driving factor in the growing number of shootings.
Cook County’s 2017 bail reform required judges to set affordable bail for defendants they deemed could be released without endangering the public.
Loyola’s study found no “statistically significant” change in the amount of crime in Chicago in the year after the reform took effect in September 2017.
After the reform, the number of people who weren’t required to post any money to be released on bail — called an “I-bond” — doubled. About 26 percent of defendants received them before the reform and 57 percent afterward. The average cost of cash bail decreased from about $9,300 before the reform to about $3,800.
The number of people released before trial didn’t change much, from 77 percent of defendants before the reform to 81 percent after.
The chance of someone on bail being charged with a new crime while awaiting trial remained about the same— 17 percent — as did the probability of someone being arrested for a violent offense — three percent.
“Releasing people on their own recognizance does not make communities less safe,” the study found. “Taking money away from people to secure their release does not make communities safer — but it does impose a significant burden on those individuals and their families who are least able to afford it.”
“If bail reform practices haven’t dramatically changed this year, which we don’t believe to have occurred, then we have to start looking at all of the other possible explanations for the increase in violence,” said Loyola researcher David Olson.
“With the pandemic and with the shutdown came a lot of economic stress on communities and individuals.”
Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau Chief of The Crime Report.