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In 2021, Illinois became the first state to end the use of cash bail across the board. The reform will go into effect in 2023. Using the lessons learned from two years of impact in Chicago, The Bail Project has partnered with the Lawndale Christian Legal Center to expand our program of Community Release with Support in Cook County to support people released without bail. Implementing this version of our model will provide invaluable guidance to the State of Illinois as it builds an alternative pretrial system without cash bail. 

During the time The Bail Project provided free bail assistance to low-income residents of Cook County, our local branch helped more than 1,200 individuals, including over 500 people at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team supported these clients in more than 6,300 court dates for a 96% return to court rate, demonstrating, as we have in other jurisdictions, that cash bail is not necessary to ensure people return to court.


Xiuhui Lim

Regional Director for the East

Fast Facts

Despite recent reforms, Cook County still has one of the largest populations of pretrial prisoners in the country, and the number of people held without bail significantly in recent years.

While the number of people released on electronic monitoring by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office has declined since 2017, dozens of people allege they have been re-arrested due to faulty ankle monitors (which are the subject of a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office).

Over 70% of the people detained at the Cook County Jail are Black, and a roughly equal proportion are subject to electronic monitoring, despite comprising only 24% of the general population.

With an annual budget topping $360 million in 2018, Cook County Jail is the largest in the United States, and by extension is one of the largest mental health providers in the country.