Bail reforms provide alternatives to jail in two Midwestern states
The practice of jailing people who cannot post cash bail or pay even minor fines is being revised in Nebraska and Illinois.
Under LB 259, signed into law by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts in May, people who fail to pay a fine in time will appear before a judge instead of automatically “sitting out” the fine in jail. Judges can choose to dismiss the fine or assign up to 20 hours of community service instead, and the rate for sitting out a fine would increase from $90 to $150 a day. The law also requires judges to consider a person’s ability to pay as one of several factors in setting bond.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the Bail Reform Act (SB 2034) into law in June.
Under this new law, cash bail is not necessary for people in custody for nonviolent misdemeanors or low-level felonies such as theft, prostitution, driving under the influence or drug possession. The presumption will be that any bail set in connection with those categories of crimes not be monetary; other options include electronic home monitoring, curfews, drug counseling, stay-away orders and in-person reporting. One goal of these new laws is to save money, as incarcerating people is much more expensive than the bail or fines they pay.