By: David Jackson, Todd Lighty, and Gary Marx
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans for months has defended the bail reform he ordered by citing an analysis produced by the office he runs.
But Evans’ definition of violent crime, while acceptable to criminologists under some circumstances, was limited to six offenses and excluded numerous others, including domestic battery, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, battery, armed violence and reckless homicide.
Hundreds of these charges were filed against people released after bail reform took effect, according to data Evans provided after the Tribune filed a public records petition to the Illinois Supreme Court. If those charges were included in the analysis, the total would be at least four times higher, the Tribune found.
“You always think that if they didn’t release him my son would still be alive, and my grandchildren would still have their father,” said Michelle Jones-Vincent, the mother of the victim, Terrell Jones. “That’s always going through your head. I always wonder if the outcome would have been different if he would have remained incarcerated and not released on bail.”
Paul Cassell, a former federal judge who teaches law, and economics professor Richard Fowles said biases were apparent in the report.
Violent crime: What charges qualify?
According to a study by Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ office, 147 felony defendants released on bond between Oct. 1, 2017, and the end of 2018 were charged with new violent crimes, out of a total of 24,504 people. But the Tribune found hundreds more defendants were charged with crimes that many people would consider acts of violence.
Conclusions and questions
Simply put, that means they had far less time to violate their bonds through new arrests.
In fact, Evans’ own online “dashboard” of court statistics, which tracks the outcomes of cases for felony defendants released after bail reform, shows that as defendants spent more days on the street, the percentages who missed court appearances or were charged with new crimes increased.
Armed robbery, before and after
This set of cases, evenly divided between the two years, suggests that bail reform may have had a more complicated impact on safety than Evans’ report acknowledges, said Jennifer Doleac, a Texas A&M economics professor and director of its Justice Tech Lab, who reviewed the Tribune’s numbers and Evans’ report.
A flimsy safeguard
‘It’s a hurting feeling’
“It’s horrible. It’s horrible. He was a hands-on dad. He helped with their homework. He helped with dinner. He picked the children up from school,” she said. “They know that their dad is in heaven, but all the time they say, ‘I miss my daddy.'”