Letter: Freedom should not depend on finances

Posted11/18/2022 1:00 AM

This summer, I spent time observing bond court in DuPage County. This experience exposed me to what it's like for accused people to go through bond court.

The judge, assistant district attorney, public defender, bailiff, and recorder all appear in person in the courtroom. The defendants, who remain in jail, only appear on a small screen through zoom. And their fate is quickly decided through a process that seemed subjective to the will of a judge who sets a monetary bond amount. The decision whether someone would await trial at home or be confined for months pretrial is not based on whether community safety is at stake, but is based on whether those accused have enough money to pay the bond amount.


The amount of bond that judges set surprised me. In one case, a Black woman unknowingly violated an order of protection by requesting money from her ex-boyfriend who owed her money. Her bond of $10,000 seemed excessive, and it struck me as racist and prejudiced against her livelihood.

It also shocked me that people accused of a violent crime like domestic battery were given low bond amounts and that after a short period of time (often 72 hours), they were even allowed to return home -- even though home is where the violence took place, and they are clearly a danger to their victims. I'm glad that the Pretrial Fairness Act protects survivors of domestic abuse and ensures that those accused of domestic violence will not be able to pay their way out of jail.

After Jan. 1, people will no longer be punished for not having the money to pay their bond. Freedom should not depend on someone's financial resources, it should depend on whether or not they are a danger to others.

Ruth Julian


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