Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act Project


A quarter of a million people cycle through local jails in Illinois every year. Most of these people are not yet convicted and are detained pretrial. Many are in jail not because they pose a threat to their community but because they can’t afford to pay the financial condition of release. The Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA) is a groundbreaking law that prohibits the use of financial conditions of pretrial release, makes a range of other changes to the pretrial decision making process, and seeks to improve pretrial outcomes in Illinois.

Our Approach

With financial support from Arnold Ventures, CEPP is partnering with Justice System Partners to provide technical assistance to the Illinois Supreme Court Pretrial Implementation Task Force and assist government and community stakeholders with the implementation of the PFA.

In partnership with the Task Force, the Illinois Supreme Court, and the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, CEPP created five subcommittees to:

  • Provide statewide guidance on statutory and operational implementation considerations
  • Develop and deliver a comprehensive strategy for statewide education and training on the PFA
  • Assist selected pilot sites with the implementation of the PFA requirements
  • Deliver proactive and responsive communications.

Nearly 100 system and community stakeholders across Illinois serve on these subcommittees. Meeting frequently, the subcommittees are invested in the work—developing new resources and designing implementation strategies. The Task Force hosts monthly town halls to inform system stakeholders and the public about the impending legislative changes and resources available from the Task Force.

The Impact

Poised to serve as a national model for pretrial reform, Illinois faces several political and operational obstacles to a successful implementation of the PFA, which was proposed to go into effect on January 1, 2023. Despite broad support for this law, law enforcement officials filed multiple lawsuits that were consolidated in a small county. Then, on July 18, 2023, the Illinois Supreme Court released a ruling that upheld the pretrial release provisions of the SAFE-T Act as constitutional. As of September 18, 2023, judges are no longer allowed to order someone charged with a crime to pay money as a condition of their pretrial release.

With assistance from CEPP, practitioners in Illinois are working to operationalize the requirements of the PFA. The Task Force has released a series of flowcharts and documents outlining the required changes and the operational issues that local counties must consider as they begin to implement the new law. Starting in the fall of 2022, the Task Force will convene a series of training sessions to review fundamental pretrial principles, the critical elements of the PFA, and strategies for local implementation.

CEPP is also working with various committees of the Illinois Supreme Court to ensure that court rules and forms are modified and consistent with PFA requirements. In the pilot sites, collaborative working groups are guided by experienced technical assistance providers from CEPP and Justice System Partners as they develop system maps, make policy decisions, and train local stakeholders on the changes.

Hopefully, the implementation of the new law across the state will result in a more fair, effective, and just system of pretrial decision making.