Even jurisdictions that initially show promise in enacting bail reform struggle with maintaining momentum.
In July 2017, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans imposed new rules as part of sweeping bench reforms, mandating that judges consider a person’s ability to pay before setting bail.Bryce Covert, “One Year after Cook County’s Bail Reform, Court Watchers Say Things Are Getting Worse,” The Appeal, October 5, 2018; and Circuit Court of Cook County, “Evans Changes Cash-bail Process for More Pretrial Release,” press release (Chicago: Circuit Court of Cook County, July 17, 2017). Initial results were promising: the number of people required to post money bail to obtain pretrial release dropped by more than half and the number of people released on their own recognizance doubled.Covert, “Things are Getting Worse,” 2018. But one year later, the Chicago Community Bond Fund, a nonprofit organization that manages a revolving fund to pay bail for people detained in Cook County, reports that not only are Cook County judges still setting unaffordable bail in nearly 30 percent of cases, the bond fund itself has also seen no decrease in requests for assistance to pay bail.Covert, “Things are Getting Worse,” 2018. In fact, the number of people held on unaffordable money bail increased from 2,500 in May to 2,700 in August.The Coalition to End Money Bond, Shifting Sands: An Investigation into the First Year of Bond Reform in Cook County (Chicago: Coalition to End Money Bond, 2018). Moreover, racial disparities in detention persist: more than 70 percent of people jailed on money bail in the county are black, despite the fact that black people constitute only 24 percent of its residents.The Coalition to End Money Bond, Shifting Sands: An Investigation into the First Year of Bond Reform in Cook County (Chicago: Coalition to End Money Bond, 2018).