Rich Miller

Rich Miller

SAFE-T Act problems aren’t over

Spread the love

.

By Rich Miller

.

Hannah Meisel’s recent report for Capitol News Illinois included a line that jumped out at me: “Per state law — which hasn’t been updated since 1949 — only counties with 35,000 or more residents are required to set up offices of public defender.”

According to information posted on numerous websites (Illinois Demographics, Wikipedia and World Population Review), a majority of 62 out of 102 Illinois counties have fewer than 35,000 residents. Fifty counties have less than 25,000 residents. Another 31 have less than 15,000 inhabitants, 15 have less than 10,000 people and 7 don’t even have 5,000 residents. For perspective, a single Chicago ward contains about 54,000 people. Only 24 counties have at least that much population.

All counties in the state are required by the Illinois Constitution to have sheriffs, county clerks and treasurers. State statutes heap on many more responsibilities, as do local county ordinances.

We’ve long seen advocates calling for school district consolidation and township elimination. But the SAFE-T Act’s implementation last week highlights how the state should probably start a conversation about how dozens of small Illinois counties can effectively govern in a modern society.

RichMiller 1

Rich Miller

A recent WBEZ story noted that Cass County has “one attorney and one resident judge handling all the criminal cases.” Cass is just northwest of Sangamon County and has a bit more than 13,000 residents.

Meisel’s story profiled a public defender who does part-time work in two counties: Gallatin and Hamilton. The combined population of those two counties is about 13,000, according to her report.

The counties want more money from the state to implement the new law, which fully takes effect today. Public defenders outside of Cook County received $10 million in this fiscal year’s budget, which doesn’t seem like much.

I don’t know what the answer is here, but I do know that local mandates are regularly approved at the Statehouse without taking the population of most Illinois counties into consideration.

Further, the lack of resources in Illinois’ plethora of tiny counties is only one problem. There will be other problems with the new SAFE-T Act.

A prosecutor will decide not to ask a judge to keep someone in custody who has been busted for a detainable offense, or a judge will overrule a prosecutor who wants someone detained, or a loophole will be exploited and that suspect will then go out and commit another crime and maybe hurt someone, or worse.

This sort of thing is not new, of course. A small minority, but still a significant number of people who bailed out of jail wound up going back after committing more offenses. But that history may easily be lost in the debate as bad things happen under the new law.

Controversy arose on the very first day of the new law when WTTW reported that the Cook County state’s attorney’s office decided not to ask for the detention of the very first person given a hearing. The suspect was accused of pepper spraying four Chicago police officers and sending three of them to the hospital, and is facing four counts of aggravated battery to a police officer.

“This highlights the misplaced priorities of Illinois’ criminal justice system when the prosecutor prioritizes the freedom of a violent offender over the safety of those police officers dedicated to protecting and serving our communities,” said Senate Republican Leader John Curran in response.

Elsewhere, though, prosecutors used the new law to keep people behind bars who likely would’ve previously walked away.

McLean County State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds has been a staunch critic of the new law, but her office persuaded a judge to keep a man locked up who was accused of possessing a gun as a felon, a consortium of Public Radio stations reported. The man was arrested before the SAFE-T Act officially took effect, and his public defender wanted him charged under the old statute so he could potentially bond out of custody. The judge disagreed and the man remained in custody.

Proponents just haven’t focused on how the SAFE-T Act will make it easier in many cases to keep physically dangerous people locked up without bail.

But no mere law can eliminate human error or prevent all unforeseen circumstances. As those cases emerge, we can probably expect legislative fights over whether to expand the list of detainable offenses.

Those battles could wind up being the new version of the old legislative tradition of annually enhancing criminal penalties, which proceeded unabated for decades until more progressive members finally put a stop to it.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

Local News

Hadi Isbaih

Palos Heights tax preparer convicted of Covid-relief fraud

Spread the love

Spread the loveFrom staff reports A Palos Heights tax preparer who operates a business in Bridgeview has been convicted on federal charges for fraudulently assisting customers in obtaining loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The jury in U.S. District Court in Chicago on June 10 convicted Hadi Isbaih, 42, on all…

An artist's renderings of what the renovated Fine Arts Center will look like at Shepard High School, 13049 S. Ridgeland Ave., Palos Heights. (Supplied photos)

Renovations begin on Shepard High School theater

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Shepard High School, which prides itself in the fine arts, will soon have a beautifully reconstructed theater right on its Palos Heights campus. The Community High School District 218 Board of Education recently unanimously approved funding for the renovation of the Fine Arts Center at the high school at 13049…

Ribhi “Spiderman” Gaber wishes everyone at Glen Oak School a great summer. (Photos by Nuha Abdessalam)

Young Spiderman fan wishes students a great summer

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam Spiderman-kid bids farewell and wishes a beautiful summer break to students of Glen Oak Elementary in Hickory Hills. Since the summer of 2023, when he discovered the movie “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse,” a story about multiple Spidermen from different dimensions, 6-year-old Ribhi Gaber has been more than just a fan…

reporter worth welcome sign

Worth finalizes rules for open burning in village

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Joe Boyle After several discussions over the past month, the Village of Worth has new guidelines for open burning by businesses and in residential areas. Mayor Mary Werner mentioned during the Worth Village Board meeting Tuesday night that a discrepancy in an ordinance regarding open burning had a 10 p.m. deadline. However,…

Residents were invited out to join Orland Township Supervisor Paul O'Grady for an event called, Minds Matter 2024, on May 16 at Orland Township, 14807 S. Ravinia Avenue in Orland Park. (Supplied photos)

Orland Township event focuses on mental health

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Orland Township is taking the time to focus on mental health. Residents were invited out to join Orland Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady for an event called, Minds Matter 2024, on May 16 at Orland Township, located at 14807 S. Ravinia Avenue in Orland Park. “This was an excellent opportunity to…

bridgeview police logo

Bridgeview shooting not related to Summer Smash

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Bridgeview Police Chief Ricardo Mancha on Monday wanted to emphasize that a shooting in the village Saturday night had nothing to do with the Summer Smash music festival that took place over the weekend at SeatGeek Stadium. “It was an isolated incident,” he said. “Completely unrelated to the Summer Smash…

lyons township logo

Summer jobs available for youths through Lyons Township

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch The summer jobs program offered each year by the Township of Lyons is up and running. The program for high school and college students “is designed to give young individuals an opportunity for summer employment,” Trustee Donna McDonald said at the township board’s June 11 meeting. The jobs program started…

Countryside Mayor Sean McDermott holds his first grandson, Henry James Martin. (Photo courtesy of Sean McDermott)

Proud mayor grandpa hands out candy bars at meeting

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch It’s a tradition for new fathers to hand out cigars after the birth of a child. The cigar’s wrappers are blue for a boy and pink for a girl. If they’re non-smokers, new dads have been known to hand out bubblegum shaped like cigars. Sometimes, proud grandfathers get into the…

summit police logo

Pair busted for Summit phone store robberies

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Two Chicago men have been charged with robbing two phone stores in Summit earlier this year. Jacari Franklin and Austin White are charged with robbing the T-Mobile store at 5640 S. Harlem Ave. on March 28 and the AT&T store at Archer and Harlem avenues on April 18, police said.…

Bruce Quintos (right) visits with Lyons Village Trustee Dan Hilker in front of Quintos’ 1957 Chevy Bel Air that he lovingly restored. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Car enthusiasts crowd annual Father’s Day show in Lyons.

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch Held under sunny and warm skies Sunday, the annual Father’s Day Car Show in Lyons was deemed a smashing success by participants and visitors. Not only were car lovers able to admire the four-wheeled beauties, some owners spent quality time with Dad or a spouse. Don Raschka, 80, of Central…

Neighbors

Hadi Isbaih

Palos Heights tax preparer convicted of Covid-relief fraud

Spread the love

Spread the loveFrom staff reports A Palos Heights tax preparer who operates a business in Bridgeview has been convicted on federal charges for fraudulently assisting customers in obtaining loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The jury in U.S. District Court in Chicago on June 10 convicted Hadi Isbaih, 42, on all…

An artist's renderings of what the renovated Fine Arts Center will look like at Shepard High School, 13049 S. Ridgeland Ave., Palos Heights. (Supplied photos)

Renovations begin on Shepard High School theater

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Shepard High School, which prides itself in the fine arts, will soon have a beautifully reconstructed theater right on its Palos Heights campus. The Community High School District 218 Board of Education recently unanimously approved funding for the renovation of the Fine Arts Center at the high school at 13049…

Ribhi “Spiderman” Gaber wishes everyone at Glen Oak School a great summer. (Photos by Nuha Abdessalam)

Young Spiderman fan wishes students a great summer

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam Spiderman-kid bids farewell and wishes a beautiful summer break to students of Glen Oak Elementary in Hickory Hills. Since the summer of 2023, when he discovered the movie “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse,” a story about multiple Spidermen from different dimensions, 6-year-old Ribhi Gaber has been more than just a fan…

reporter worth welcome sign

Worth finalizes rules for open burning in village

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Joe Boyle After several discussions over the past month, the Village of Worth has new guidelines for open burning by businesses and in residential areas. Mayor Mary Werner mentioned during the Worth Village Board meeting Tuesday night that a discrepancy in an ordinance regarding open burning had a 10 p.m. deadline. However,…

Residents were invited out to join Orland Township Supervisor Paul O'Grady for an event called, Minds Matter 2024, on May 16 at Orland Township, 14807 S. Ravinia Avenue in Orland Park. (Supplied photos)

Orland Township event focuses on mental health

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Orland Township is taking the time to focus on mental health. Residents were invited out to join Orland Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady for an event called, Minds Matter 2024, on May 16 at Orland Township, located at 14807 S. Ravinia Avenue in Orland Park. “This was an excellent opportunity to…

bridgeview police logo

Bridgeview shooting not related to Summer Smash

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Bridgeview Police Chief Ricardo Mancha on Monday wanted to emphasize that a shooting in the village Saturday night had nothing to do with the Summer Smash music festival that took place over the weekend at SeatGeek Stadium. “It was an isolated incident,” he said. “Completely unrelated to the Summer Smash…

lyons township logo

Summer jobs available for youths through Lyons Township

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch The summer jobs program offered each year by the Township of Lyons is up and running. The program for high school and college students “is designed to give young individuals an opportunity for summer employment,” Trustee Donna McDonald said at the township board’s June 11 meeting. The jobs program started…

Countryside Mayor Sean McDermott holds his first grandson, Henry James Martin. (Photo courtesy of Sean McDermott)

Proud mayor grandpa hands out candy bars at meeting

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch It’s a tradition for new fathers to hand out cigars after the birth of a child. The cigar’s wrappers are blue for a boy and pink for a girl. If they’re non-smokers, new dads have been known to hand out bubblegum shaped like cigars. Sometimes, proud grandfathers get into the…

summit police logo

Pair busted for Summit phone store robberies

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Two Chicago men have been charged with robbing two phone stores in Summit earlier this year. Jacari Franklin and Austin White are charged with robbing the T-Mobile store at 5640 S. Harlem Ave. on March 28 and the AT&T store at Archer and Harlem avenues on April 18, police said.…

Bruce Quintos (right) visits with Lyons Village Trustee Dan Hilker in front of Quintos’ 1957 Chevy Bel Air that he lovingly restored. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Car enthusiasts crowd annual Father’s Day show in Lyons.

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch Held under sunny and warm skies Sunday, the annual Father’s Day Car Show in Lyons was deemed a smashing success by participants and visitors. Not only were car lovers able to admire the four-wheeled beauties, some owners spent quality time with Dad or a spouse. Don Raschka, 80, of Central…