Ministers rally against 'misinformation' on SAFE-T Act; ex-prosecutor says concerns are valid

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Thursday, September 29, 2022
Suburban ministers worry about 'misinformation' on SAFE-T Act
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The SAFE-T Act has been touted as historic criminal justice reform legislation, but has become one of most hotly-debated topics this political season.

AURORA, Ill. (WLS) -- Some suburban ministers are raising concerns about what they call "misinformation" about the criminal justice reform law known as the SAFE-T Act. But a former prosecutor says critics of the law have valid concerns about it.

The SAFE-T Act has been touted as historic legislation to reform the criminal justice system by ending cash bail and changing the criteria for when judges can order defendants held pretrial.

SEE ALSO | Illinois law eliminating cash bail has some in law enforcement concerned

But it has become one of most hotly-debated topics this political season. On Thursday, a group of west suburban ministers who support the law went on the offensive.

"When we talk about cash bail, we talk about Pretrial Fairness Act," said Pastor Pat Fish at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Aurora. "There's a lot of misinformation. And there's a lot of fear mongering."

Leaders specifically called out right-wing publications masquerading as newspapers in the western suburbs that feature full-page spreads of criminal defendants that will allegedly be automatically released when the SAFE-T Act goes into effect January 1.

SEE ALSO | Illinois law eliminating cash bail faces criticism, but supporters say it makes system fairer

"There is an objectification going on of Black and brown people which is nothing more than a political tool, and it is outright lying to our communities," said Pastor John Bell at Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora.

The pastors claim the law will actually make communities safer. But former Cook County prosecutor Bob Milan, who has researched the law and written a paper with 17 suggestions for improvement, is pushing back against accusations that critics are fear-mongering.

"Those allegations are false," Milan said. "The SAFE-T Act should be called the Safety for Criminals Act. That's how bad it is."

SEE ALSO | IL House Speaker Emanuel 'Chris' Welch doubles down on support for SAFE-T Act to end cash bail

Milan said the law also ties the hands of judges by prohibiting them from detaining people without bail on certain violent felonies that don't involve weapons.

"If they don't think that there's going to be scenario after scenario of terrible crimes committed by individuals that were out on the street because the judge has no discretion to hold them, they're crazy," Milan said.

With the election only about six weeks away, debate over the SAFE-T Act is expected to continue. The question remains whether or not Democrats, who hold supermajorities in the legislature, will make any significant changes to it.