Top state court says Chicago lacks 'clear and appropriate' release criteria for criminal defendants

Lending support to critics of the pretrial services provided to help keep criminal defendants in the Chicago area out of jail as they await trial, the Illinois Supreme Court on Friday issued an unprecedented report (PDF). Change is needed in what has been described as the nation’s largest single-site jail and unified court system, the report concluded.

A lack of leadership has created confusion about the Cook County Circuit Court Pretrial Services program, says the lengthy document. It calls for one individual to be put in charge and the development of “clear and appropriate criteria” to help judges determine when defendants can be released pending trial, among other suggestions, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Chief Circuit Judge Timothy Evans could not immediately be reached by the newspaper for comment. He has previously said he is open to the supreme court’s ideas about how the department can be improved.

“The Supreme Court is overseeing efforts to improve pretrial services in Illinois, and I applaud those efforts,” he said in a December press release. “I am open to any meaningful suggestions as to how our judges hearing criminal matters can more efficiently handle their ever growing workload.”

An Illinois Supreme Court press release provides additional details.

Related material:

Chicago Sun-Times (opinion): “Toni Preckwinkle: Cook County courts need outside reformer”

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