EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – Questions about the Illinois bail and pretrial detention laws drew so many comparisons to a horror movie that several supporters will answer questions in a forum in East St. Louis on Wednesday night.
“Oh yeah, the barber keeps me tight you know,” laughed Brotha Dre, East St. Louis Hub Organizer of Black Men Build.
Dre is proud of his afro and his barber, but he knows the barbershop can also be ground zero for heated debate.
“Some people would like to associate the SAFE-T Act with the Purge Law.”
He was referring to the fictional horror film The Purge from Universal Pictures, in which serious and lethal felonies were temporarily legal. He was also referring to the Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity Today Act and the Pretrial Fairness Act.
Both laws abolish cash bail and state guidelines for judges to decide who to release and who to keep in jail before trial. Both laws take effect January 1, 2023. Dre shared that myths about the law are moving from social media to real life conversations.
“Actually, it was just word-of-mouth hearing the people in the neighborhood talk, particularly in our barbershops,” Dre revealed.
In September 2022, Madison County, Illinois’ State Attorney Tom Haine told FOX 2 and KLPR News 11 that the new laws would hurt public safety.
“Risk to innocent civilians would no longer be a reason for a judge to detain someone who’s charged for the first-time offense of kidnapping, or for the first-time offense of burglary; even second-degree murder, arson.”
“That is so untrue,” said Marie Franklin, a former member of the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, which helped push the laws through the Illinois General Assembly.
“You have to show information and show evidence that this person is a threat, and that will give the judge the means by which to detain a person.”
Until 1997, Franklin was also an Illinois State Police Trooper. She shared that she conducted a traffic stop, in which the driver had a warrant for outstanding video-rental fees. Decades later, Franklin expressed that stop still haunts her.
“I had to arrest him, because the warrant had been issued, and he had a small child with him. He needed $500 to get out of jail that he did not have – and my hands were tied.”
Black Men Build will host a workshop on the new laws, where Franklin will speak. J.D. Dixon from the social-justice group Empire 13 will also speak. He heard and saw similar comparisons for the bail-reform laws.
“I’ve seen videos,” Dixon shared. “I’ve even heard people in our community call it The Purge Law.”
Justice Quarterly issued a report in 2011. It named Cook County, Illinois, as one of five counties where black detainees could face bail amounts that were thousands of dollars higher than those of white detainees.
The report stated that this left black people waiting longer in jail than whites before trial.
Dixon said that is why he will be at the forum Wednesday night.
“It’s imperative, especially in the Black community, that we know our rights, that we know our laws, that we know the legislation that affects us directly on a daily basis.”
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
7:00 p.m. CST
Trinity United Methodist Church
1411 Missouri Ave.
East St. Louis, MO 62201