The first installment in a four-part series. JSP is working alongside Cook County, IL to implement the Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA). This comprehensive legislation eliminates money bond, reduces pretrial incarceration, and increases law enforcement use of citations that do not require an arrest and bringing individuals to jail, among other state-wide reforms focused on equity and transparency in the pretrial system. This blog is the first installment in a four-part Pretrial Fairness Act series about our work in Cook County which will pull back the curtain describe the process of turning legislation into action, sharing key insights and reflections along the way. What’s happened so far? Successful implementation of the law requires a thorough planning process with input from different parts of systems and communities impacted by the law. JSP’s primary role in Cook County is to facilitate the planning process and coordinate efforts between stakeholders. An assistant state’s attorney from Cook County describes the process from their perspective, “The changes that we have been preparing for are extremely important to the criminal justice system and the people we serve as prosecutors and for all people of Cook County and the state of Illinois.” Since the passage of the law in February 2021, JSP alongside Cook County has moved at a fast pace to implement the changes necessary to meet the standards of the new law set to take effect on January 1, 2023. The figure below describes the timeline of the changes led by JSP. Over a year-and-a-half after the bill passed and only weeks before the law takes effect statewide, various stakeholders take a step back and reflect on the tremendous progress and work that has been accomplished. An assistant state’s attorney reflects, “During my time as an assistant state’s attorney, the is the largest and most intricate project I have seen or been a part of.  It is refreshing to see the various agencies involved in making the PFA possible, come together to achieve a common goal.” What activities remain?

  • Final operational adjustments, ensuring that new processes run smoothly.
  • Finalizing court forms to reflect the language and spirit of the new law.
  • Walk throughs of new processes and training for stakeholders across agencies.
  • Responding to and incorporating any relevant legislative changes into implementation planning following the veto session.
  • Developing a triage plan for emergent issues that may arise after implementation.

Current Lessons The rapid pace of this work means that we’ve learned a lot already. A reflective stance is crucial to this work, and we ask ourselves and those we work with critical questions about changing culture, shifting norms, improving equity, and building efficiency at each step in the process. Our staff are reflecting on internal communication, external messaging, centering impacted people, building efficiencies, and balancing short term feasibility with long term vision every day. Follow this series to learn about the ideas we put into action as we help Cook County transform their pretrial system.

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