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Illinois lawmakers approve amendments to controversial SAFE-T Act on criminal justice reform

Amendments proposed for controversial Illinois SAFE-T Act
Amendments proposed for controversial Illinois SAFE-T Act 02:07

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois lawmakers on Thursday approved changes to the SAFE-T Act – a piece of legislation passed last year that includes the end of cash bail.

The amendments passed both houses of the Illinois General Assembly Thursday and now go to Gov. JB Pritzker's desk.

As CBS 2's Marybel González reported, you'll remember the SAFE-T Act was a hot-button issue during the November elections in Illinois. Republican gubernatorial challenger Darren Bailey – who ultimately lost to Democratic incumbent Pritzker – claimed the SAFE-T Act would set dangerous criminals free.

"The SAFE-T Act must be repealed because it lets violent criminals and murderers out of jail before trial," Bailey said at a debate with Pritzker.

"If you want to reduce crime, you've got to solve crime," Pritzker said in the debate.

The topic is now once again coming to the forefront, following the 308-page amendment passed Thursday with tweaks filed by state Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago).

Attorney Tamara Walker said the tweaks are more about clarifying language than they are about changes.

"I think that there was a lot of propaganda, originally, with some of the politicians' ads – and it was highly politicized, and really divisive," Walker said.

The proposed amendments include:

--New language specifying that the new cash bail changes will apply to those charged after Jan. 1.

--Language specifying timelines by which defendants must appear for their hearings – which would depend on their charges.

--Expansion of the number of charges for which a judge can order pre-trial detention.

--Clarification that police can still arrest people in cases of trespassing, if they deem it to be a threat to safety.

Prosecutors must also prove why someone poses a threat to public safety.

"My understanding of the change is that it would require prosecutors to list specific reasons – not just a generalized statement," Walker said.

Walker said this amendment process is routine. But it is one that has been highlighted due to the nature of the criminal reform overhaul.

"With any legislation that is proposed, that is new legislation," Walker said. "It goes through an amendment process. Different changes get proposed, This is no different than what the ordinary process is."

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