Punishment is Not a "Service"
The Injustice of Pretrial Conditions in Cook County
As bail reform advances and Cook County relies less on money bond and pretrial incarceration, Chicago Community Bond Fund is increasing our focus on pretrial conditions of release. Many people who are released pending trial are still subjected to significant restrictions of their liberty through electronic monitoring and other pretrial conditions. Through our work posting bond for people who cannot afford it themselves and observing Central Bond Court, CCBF has consistently observed conditions of pretrial release that operate as a form of pretrial punishment. Since 2015, CCBF has posted bond to free 98 people. Of these people, more than one in four were subjected to punitive pretrial conditions, including electronic monitoring, overnight or 24-hour curfews, monthly check-ins with a Pretrial Services officer, and drug testing — all after we posted their significant monetary bonds.
Punishment is Not a "Service" details how punitive pretrial conditions operate in Cook County and includes individual experiences of how these restrictions have caused severe and unnecessary hardship for people who are legally innocent. These stories demonstrate how pretrial conditions undermine the ability of people to support themselves and their families while their case is pending in many of the same ways that incarceration does. They are stories of lost jobs, restricted movement, inability to support children and other dependants, and pressure to plead guilty.
Instead of subjecting people who have previously missed court or are repeatedly targeted for arrest to myriad pretrial conditions, our court system should provide supports and services that help individuals succeed. By punishing people instead of working to meet the underlying causes of their "risk factors," Cook County is contributing to the criminalization of vulnerable communities and further compounding racial inequity in the criminal legal system. It is our hope that this report will improve public understanding of pretrial conditions and help move us away from systems that rely on punishment and surveillance instead of support and healing.