MADISON COUNTY, Ill. – One month after the SAFE-T Act took effect, more accused criminals are going free in Illinois. But in a strange twist, the new law may ultimately end up having the opposite effect.
Michael Perham, 52, was charged with first-degree murder last month for allegedly shooting his girlfriend in the back in Troy, Illinois. Under state law then, he was able to post $100,000 cash to be freed on $1 million bail.
But under the new SAFE-T Act, which eliminates cash bail, Perham may be headed back to jail but with no bail this time.
“If that were the only thing the SAFE-T Act did—made it easier to detain murder suspects—I would have been all for it. But we file approximately 4,000 felonies-a-year,” Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine said.
Haine, who is prosecuting the Perham case, would not discuss specifics about pending cases but said he’s filed a motion to detain Perham with no bond under the new law.
The motion speaks volumes. It says Perham shot girlfriend Maha Tiimob in the back at his home, claiming he feared she was coming at him with a knife.
No knife was found at the scene.
Overall, the elimination of cash bail is setting people free pending trial across the state. Though state lawmakers broadened the number of “detainable offenses,” people accused of potentially dangerous felonies, from high-speed chases to assault, burglary, and auto theft, must still be released under the new law.
The threat of losing cash posted for bail was often the biggest incentive for those suspects to show up to court. That incentive is now gone.
“Right now, the only thing they’re facing is a stiff talking-to from a judge and a promise to return,” Haine said. “Call me cynical, but I don’t think that has the kind of bite that money hanging over your head would have.”
Since the law took effect, the Madison County Jail population has dipped below 200, Haine said. That’s a close to 25% drop from last year, but the trend may be reversed.
Haine’s office is working more closely than ever with police to have allegedly dangerous criminals detained with no bond under the new law.
“What may look like a short-term dip in our jail population may be a long-term increase, because once someone is detained, they can never bond out (under the new law). When they are in, they are in,” he said.
That may soon be the case for Michael Perham.