ST. LOUIS – The first St. Louis area suspects are out of jail under a new law ending cash bail in Illinois.

Four of the first accused felons to be freed were in Washington County, Illinois, about 50 miles east of St. Louis.

The historic orders filed in Washington County Court read, in part, “pursuant to statute change, defendant’s monetary bond condition is stricken and (defendant) shall be released.”

The four suspects face charges ranging from battery to meth possession.

“This just opens the door to go back out and do the same thing. If you’re stealing to get money for drugs, you get to do it again the next day instead of going through a rehab,” said State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Highland.

He represents parts of five St. Louis area counties in Illinois: Clinton, Washington, Bond, Madison, and St. Clair.

“We have programs. We help them, give them a chance to get off the drugs and come back and be a productive citizen (through the former pre-trial bail system),” he said.

In Belleville, St. Clair County’s first detention hearings are set for Tuesday. Authorities expect about 150 of the close to 450 pre-trial detainees to be released in the coming days.

In Edwardsville, Madison County’s hearings are also expected to begin Tuesday. About 250 are currently jailed there. There’s no word yet on how many are expected to be freed.

A news camera captured history in Macon County Court in Decatur, with a judge releasing most of the defendants arrested for alleged crimes over the weekend under the new law.

Suspects charged with felonies now defined as “non-detainable” (including battery and theft) can no longer be jailed pending trial. Judges can still order those accused of violence, gun crimes, and predatory sex offenses to be held without bail until trial.

In Chicago, supporters cheered the changes.

“Today is the day we stop criminalizing poverty,” said Illinois Speaker of the House Emmanuel “Chris” Welch.

Washington County State’s Attorney Dan Janowski said he was less concerned about the end of cash bail and more concerned about new restrictions on how the legal system can deal with those who don’t show up for court appearances or things like pre-trial drug and mental health services/evaluations.

“Sometimes, the only way people are able to hold themselves accountable or that we can hold people’s feet to the fire is if they’re being held in jail with the promise that they’ll be let out,” he said.

According to Janowski, a judge now has four sanction options for suspects who fail to show up: a verbal warning, a written warning, additional conditions to encourage compliance, and 30 days in jail.

A judge cannot order someone accused of a non-detainable felony offense to be held without bond, Janowski said.

“If we are unable to hold you, that incentive, that ability to hold somebody to force somebody to go to treatment, obviously is greatly diminished,” he said.

“It doesn’t give us that wiggle room to help a lot of people who we can make a difference in their lives,” Meier said. “All it’s doing is letting people out of jail. We’re really not giving them the programs to advance them for the future and it’s putting the majority of our population at risk.”

He hopes the law will be modified within the next year.