Cook County’s Justice Advisory Council has concluded its comprehensive six month study on the operation of bond court and pre-trial services, and implementation of initiatives is already underway, President Preckwinkle announced today.
The JAC began the study on January 18th at the direction of President Preckwinkle and the Cook County Board of Commissioners. The goal of the review was to understand current practices and procedures in order to provide more humane conditions for those working in, and passing through, bond court. All of the stakeholders, including Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy J. Evans, worked cooperatively and proactively with the JAC to create an effective process. These “Justice Enterprise Leaders” include Judge Evans, Clerk Dorothy Brown, Sheriff Tom Dart, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Public Defender Abishi Cunningham.
“Bonds are set to protect the community and ensure the defendant appears for his or her trial,” President Preckwinkle said. “However, too many individuals facing non-violent charges remain in custody, because they can’t pay a low bail. I am pleased with the JAC’s report, which is based on a remarkable level of collaboration and creativity by the stakeholders.”
“The professionalism and leadership exhibited by the ‘Justice Enterprise Leaders’ and their staffs have been exemplary,” said Illinois State Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke. “The Leaders have designed the new process that will be implemented in the next several weeks. On behalf of the Justice Advisory Council, I wish to thank them for all they have contributed to this collaborative effort.”
The JAC study focused on pretrial detainees who have received a cash bond and not been able to pay it. The following areas were examined, and many of the initiatives are already in progress:
- Providing enhanced technology to Pretrial Services so that they will have access to more information earlier in the day in a more usable format;
- Providing more information to the Office of the Public Defender, and giving them more information about their clients earlier in the process;
- Improving electronic transfer of information regarding bonds and hearings after bonds are set;
- Implementation and utilizing electronic arrest reporting by law enforcement agencies to improve information sharing and efficiency.
- The facilities for Pretrial Services and the Public Defender to conduct interviews will be improved and enlarged and to provide privacy;
- An additional courtroom will be utilized to provide for more substantial hearings when appropriate and the call will begin at 10:30 a.m. instead of at noon;
- The Public Defender has committed to reviewing the large number of detainees who remain in jail with low bonds to seek alternative options.
One of the most significant study achievements is the establishment of a new “Motion to Reconsider” court call. This process offers jail detainees who can’t meet low bond amounts another opportunity to have their circumstances reviewed to determine if other options might be viable. President Preckwinkle recognizes that this type of process improvement is an important step in a larger effort.
President Preckwinkle would like to thank the members of the JAC for developing problem-solving strategies with Cook County stakeholders that have already resulted in positive modifications of day-to-day procedures at the Central Bond Court. Though the JAC has released the six-month report findings, this is just the beginning of an ongoing process to promote system efficiencies and improve the administration of justice.
Members of the Justice Advisory Council include chairwoman Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke, Judge William Hooks, Judge Michael Stuttley (ret.), Victor P. Henderson, Esq., and Virginia Martinez, Esq. The executive director of the council is Juliana Stratton.
A variety of stakeholders participated in the JAC study, including the Sheriff’s Office, State’s Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Clerk of the Circuit Court, and law enforcement.