DeVore criticizes AG Raoul for not blocking SAFE-T Act from becoming law

Tom DeVore speaks during a press conference in Markham on September 15, 2022.
Tom DeVore speaks during a press conference in Markham on September 15, 2022.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 7:02 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - The Republican nominee for Illinois Attorney General is adding to the chorus of people speaking out against the SAFE-T Act. Tom DeVore argues that Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul should’ve blocked the proposal from becoming law.

DeVore spoke alongside a south suburban police chief and ex-offender organization who oppose the criminal justice law Thursday morning. Robbins Police Chief David Sheppard and DeVore said that people charged with second-degree murder or kidnapping will be released from jail under the pretrial fairness portion of the SAFE-T Act. Although, that claim is a bit misleading.

Judges cannot deny pre-trial release for kidnapping, second-degree murder, and aggravated assault on the offenses alone. Only forcible felonies ineligible for probation can be detained before a trial. Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis), a former state’s attorney, explained that kidnapping, second-degree murder, and aggravated assault are all eligible for probation. A judge can detain someone charged with these offenses if the individual has a high likelihood of willful flight. Many argue that this will be a difficult standard to meet under the new law.

DeVore is upset that Democratic lawmakers introduced and passed the final language for the SAFE-T Act in the early morning hours of Jan. 13, 2021.

“That process is an absolute abuse of our due process rights as people to be allowed to participate in our government,” DeVore said. “If I’m attorney general, I will do everything I can to stop those kind of games being played in our legislature.”

DeVore also told reporters outside the Markham courthouse that Gov. JB Pritzker is correct to note that there is no such thing as non-detainable offenses. A viral meme shared on social media over the past week misled the public to believe many crimes were labeled as “non-detainable offenses” once cash bail is abolished in Illinois. DeVore said Pritzker is playing word games because the law lists types of crime for which detention is still possible if someone is a risk to people or the community at large.

The downstate attorney claimed that state lawmakers are “paralyzed” and don’t want to fix the SAFE-T Act before the November election. Meanwhile, members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus who sponsored the plan said DeVore and other Republicans want to keep the status quo of having black and brown people locked up while wealthy criminals can get out of jail by paying bail.

Raoul played a significant role in helping the Black Caucus draft the SAFE-T Act. DeVore said there are good provisions in the law, but he feels lawmakers need to address problems that could be caused by eliminating cash bail. DeVore said he is standing up for Democratic and Republican state attorneys across the state concerned about the changes coming Jan. 1.

The political newcomer said the law will challenge prosecutors to prove that certain criminals are dangerous to the public or at high risk for flight. DeVore is also concerned about how the state will get people back to court once cash bail is abolished.

“When you eliminate that, it disincentivizes people coming back to court. And then the process to get them back into the court system is very complicated, and it’s going to absolutely bog the system down,” DeVore said. “But I am not opposed to eliminating bail under certain circumstances. I think it makes sense to end cash bail.”

DeVore argues that the SAFE-T Act was rammed through both chambers of the General Assembly without lawmakers knowing what they were voting on. Democrats and Republicans sat through months of subject matter hearings with criminal justice experts explaining what they wanted to see done to reform the criminal justice system.

Raoul’s office noted Thursday night that the Attorney General engaged in more than 20 meetings over the course of six months with law enforcement partners including the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Illinois Sheriffs Association, and Illinois State Attorneys Association. Spokesperson Annie Thompson said those meetings were focused on the police certification and decertification process in Illinois to improve police professionalism and accountability while bolstering trust in law enforcement.

“The Attorney General focused on taking a bipartisan approach to reach a consensus on language in that section of the act,” Thompson said. “Our office has worked and continues to work collaboratively in a bipartisan manner with state’s attorneys and other law enforcement partners to further improve the act.”

Democrats have already noted that they aren’t done making changes to the SAFE-T Act and more trailer bills are expected to be introduced over the next few years. However, cash bail will be abolished on Jan. 1 regardless of the November election results.

“Anything we work on, we want to make sure that we’re having ongoing conversations,” said Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago). “The issue here is that you can’t have ongoing conversations with people who are not acting in good faith. The biggest problem is that we’re looking at people like Dick Uihlein spending all this money attacking this bill in bad faith. We’re looking at people making critiques in bad faith.”

Peters stressed that sponsors are willing to sit down and have conversations with stakeholders concerned about the Pretrial Fairness Act. However, he said there is no guarantee Republicans will have good faith going into discussions before or after Jan. 1.

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