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New Policy Will Set Affordable Bond For Non-Violent Crimes

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Cook County's Chief Judge said almost a third of the inmates in the county jail do not have a history of violence - so starting in September, he is ordering judges to set bonds that are affordable so more people will be free, waiting for trial.

It is part of living in a free society.

That's what Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans said about the concept of presumed innocence - and allowing people to go free, rather than be jailed as they wait for trial if they don't pose a risk to society.

"I would say, probably, something like 30 percent of the people who are in there right now don't have a history that - a history of criminal danger," Evans said.

Judge Evans said beginning September 18, judges will have to set affordable bail amounts for accused felons who don't pose a threat. The county could save $160 every day for every inmate that's released.

For defendants accused of misdemeanors, the order takes effect in January.

And Evans said those 30 percent already in jail can apply for an affordable bail amount.

Chief Judge Evans said he's been pushing this for almost a decade.

And now...

"I consider the stars to have aligned," he said.

Meaning, he said, the state's attorney and the public defender are on board with this: Judges setting a bond that affordable for defendants accused of non-violent crimes like retail theft and minor drug crimes.

"Monetary bail is inappropriate," Evans said. "It ought to be based on whether somebody is a danger to society or not. If they're not, then they should be released."

Sheriff Tom Dart reacted to the judge's order, saying, "We are cautiously optimistic that it will have some impact on the jail population."

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