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updated: 7/12/2012 6:27 PM

Cook County courts to allow second hearing for some who can't make bail

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Saying too many people arrested for nonviolent crimes are jailed because they can't post bail, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced new procedures to grant another hearing for people awaiting trial and held on bond of $10,000 or less.

The introduction of a new "motion to reconsider" bail option stems from a six-month study by the Cook County Justice Advisory Council.

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According to the council's report, 26 percent of jail detainees have bail set at $6,000 or lower. By way of comparison, 33 percent are being held on no bail and 41 percent are being held on bail amounts ranging from $6,000 to $6,000,000.

"Bonds are set to protect the community and ensure the defendant appears for his or her trial," Preckwinkle said in a prepared statement. "However, too many individuals facing nonviolent charges remain in custody because they can't pay a low bail."

Under the new procedures, defendants whose bail is $100,000 or less, who within 24 hours have not posted the required 10 percent to be released from custody, will go before a judge for reconsideration of the original bail amount. Any defendant may request a motion to reconsider bail. If a judge grants the hearing, he or she may reduce the defendant's bail, increase it, or order it remain the same.

Other measures taking effect as a result of the study include the expansion of the electronic monitoring program to alleviate crowding at the jail, which currently houses 9,400 defendants awaiting trial. Preckwinkle also recommended the expansion of electronic arrest reporting by all county municipal police departments to improve information sharing between law enforcement, public defenders, prosecutors, judges and pretrial services representatives with the Adult Probation Department.

The report included no mention of the impact of the county board's decision earlier this year to close suburban courthouses on weekends and holidays. As a result, people arrested on weekends in the suburbs now must be transported to Central Bond Court in Chicago for bond hearings.

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