Murphy and Raspanti praise parts of the SAFE-T Act -- and see room for improvement
Democratic state Sen. Laura Murphy and Republican challenger Sal Raspanti both praised and criticized Illinois' SAFE-T Act, the criminal justice reform legislation that's been making waves across the nation.
That's unusual this election cycle. Attacks on -- and defense of -- the controversial law have followed party lines in many other political contests, up and down the ballot.
Murphy, of Des Plaines, and Raspanti, of Park Ridge, discussed crime, the SAFE-T Act and other issues in a joint interview with the Daily Herald ahead of the 28th Senate District showdown. A video of the session is available at dailyherald.com.
Made law in 2021, the SAFE-T Act abolishes cash bail as of Jan. 1, 2023. It also expands training for police officers, requires all law enforcement agencies to use body cameras by 2025, prohibits the purchase of some military equipment for police use and enacts other changes meant to reform the policing, judicial and prison systems.
The pending elimination of cash bail has been a particular target for Republicans -- and some Democrats. Many incorrectly say it automatically will set free defendants facing serious charges.
Raspanti toed that line in the interview, saying dangerous people won't be required to post bond to get out of jail once the pretrial detention changes in the law are implemented.
Murphy, who voted for the SAFE-T Act, noted the law leaves decisions on pretrial release up to judges who will gauge whether defendants are flight risks or a threat to others.
"Dangerous people will not be let out on the street," she said.
Murphy also noted defendants accused of violent crimes are able to get out of jail now before trial if they can afford to post bond.
"Poor people who have sat in jail and cannot afford bail are victims in this," she said.
Raspanti, who is Park Ridge's city clerk, accused Murphy and other Democrats of "doing their best to dilute" the potential adverse impacts of the SAFE-T Act. He said the law is "problematic" and vowed to vote to repeal it.
Still, Raspanti backed some components of the law, such as the requirement for body cameras and funding for more police training.
"But candidly, you could say that about any profession in any industry," he said. "There's always room for improvement."
Murphy agrees the law can be improved. She voiced support for a senate bill introduced by a fellow Democrat that aims to clarify some of the law's language, particularly sections about pretrial release.
That proposal could be approved in the upcoming veto session, Murphy said.
"There's always an opportunity to do things better," said Murphy, who has served in the Senate since 2015.
Clarifying the law in the veto session isn't good enough for Raspanti, who said Murphy has the power to call for a special session to repeal the law "in its entirety."
"Let's take a fresh look at this," he said.
Redrawn ahead of the 2022 election, the 28th District includes parts of Park Ridge, Des Plaines, Chicago, Elk Grove Village, Schaumburg, Hanover Park, Mount Prospect, Morton Grove, Niles and other communities.