Illinois gubernatorial candidates Pritzker and Bailey debate cash bail


File Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Many believe that Republican Darren Bailey’s nomination for governor reflects a rightward shift in the Illinois Republican Party.

Avani Kalra, City Editor

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) spent much of Thursday night’s gubernatorial debate debating Republican candidate Darren Bailey about the SAFE-T Act, a sweeping criminal justice reform package that will abolish cash bail in Illinois starting January 1. 

WGN9 TV moderators asked the candidates about the outcomes of the act during last week’s debate at Illinois State University, as well as Pritzker’s rumored presidential run and the future of Illinois’ police funds. 

According to a poll published by Emerson College, nearly 48% of Illinois’ residents expect the bill will increase crime.

“I have the full support of the police on this bill, because they know exactly what this does,” Bailey said. “The SAFE-T act must be repealed because it lets violent criminals and murderers out of jail before trial.”

Before the debate, Pritzker said he would consider changes to the bill. At the debate, he said he would only consider “clarifying changes” that would help with disinformation surrounding the bill’s intentions and would not make any tangible legal changes to the bill’s contents. 

Politicians like Bailey argue that the bill will further increase crime in the state, though Pritzker disagrees. 

“Crime rose substantially during the pandemic and I take that very seriously,” Pritzker said. “The criminal justice system that Darren Bailey and Republicans are standing up for is one that allows murderers and rapists and domestic abusers to buy their way out of jail and that’s unsafe.”

He argued that the bill is intended to keep perpetrators of violent crime behind bars. Pritzker said rapists, documestic abusers and murderers will no longer be given the option to utilize the cash bail system while a poor young mother who shoplifts could return home without paying a fine.

Pritzker said Illinois’ current cash-bail system is more dangerous than that proposed by the SAFE-T Act.

“If you want to reduce crime, you have to solve crime, and do what I’ve done,” Pritzker said. “Which is to increase the number of state police, build state of the art crime labs and make sure that we’re funding violence prevention,” 

Pritzker also emphasized that the SAFE-T Act will provide more funding for police and does not hinder officers’ ability to solve crimes. Funding included in the SAFE-T act will go toward crime-solving technologies and labs.

Pritzker said his administration has been able to handle a number of unprocessed rape kits during his four years in office because of technology investments. He said when he took office, there were nearly 2000 unprocessed rape kits that had not been tested within six months. Healthcare professionals use these kids to collect DNA from body, clothes and belongings after a reported sexual assault. 

Bailey interrupted Pritzker’s remarks, arguing the lack of abundant police support for the SAFE-T bill indicates that Pritzker has not been entirely successful in preventing and resolving crime during his tenure. He added that law enforcement needs to be involved in drafting any legislation similar to the SAFE-T Act. 

“The SAFE-T act was concocted at 4 a.m. in the wee hours of the morning without any police involvement whatsoever,” he said. “Behind closed doors.”Bailey did not provide evidence to support these claims. 

WGN9 moderators asked Bailey if he would support any version of abolishing cash bail –– the biggest component of the SAFE-T Act. Though he did not answer directly, he said any similar measure would need input from everyone with a stake in the game, including law enforcement. 

Bailey said Pritzker’s law will strip police of state-funded training and require them to pay for their own body cameras, while increasing property taxes statewide. Pritzker said those claims were largely untrue.

“I provided more money for police, I provided more money for our municipalities, two million dollars more for local governments and for police during my time,” Pritzker said. 

Pritzker added that when Bailey served as a state senator, he voted against funding for more police officers. Bailey, who intends to cut state spending significantly if elected, accused Pritzker of reckless spending. Bailey said Pritzker made the same kinds of irresponsible funding decisions with police increases this year. 

Bailey said budget re-prioritization could lead to better outcomes for the state without cuts to social services. 

“He’ll throw more money and hire more police, but they won’t have the money to do their jobs,” he said. 

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Twitter: @avanidkalra  

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