Cook County sheriff wants to repeal ‘essential movement’ aspect of SAFE-T Act

(The Center Square) – Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is pushing to have the so-called “essential movements” furlough revoked after a rash of recent arrests involving criminal defendants taking advantage of the practice.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, from Jan. 1, 2022 until May 1, 129 people in Cook County have been arrested while on such passes, which allow criminal defendants being held on home detention while awaiting trial 48 hours to leave home to tend to such matters as going shopping, doing laundry and taking care of other pressing issues.

Of the 129 individuals who found themselves facing additional charges that were filed over that time, 29 were charged with gun-related crimes, mostly for illegal possession of a firearm.

“I’m wildly opposed to this, and I’m going to try and do everything I can to stop it,” Dart told Fox 32, adding that other cases also centered on violence, with an armed robbery, a kidnapping, a carjacking and pointing a gun at an off-duty Chicago police officer all among them.

The “essential movement” policy, which Dart refers to as “free movement,” is mandated under the Illinois’ Pre-Trial Fairness Act, though the law is now facing a legal challenge on the grounds it violates the constitution based on another provision that outlaws the cash bail system.

Dart said he doesn’t expect legislators to move to change the law until after the Supreme Court has rendered a verdict in that case.

As it is, the Cook County public defender’s office has vowed to do everything it can to keep the practice in place.

“We would oppose repealing the provisions of the Pre-Trial Fairness Act,” Sharlyn Grace, senior policy adviser to Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell, told Fox 32.

In the month before essential movement went into effect, Dart said most people on electronic monitoring in Cook County who asked to leave home for a specific reason were allowed to do so. In all, he said such requests were approved in 73% of the instances where it was requested, with the reasons ranging from regularly scheduled doctor appointments, job interviews and laundry runs.

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