Exclusive Interview with State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas Dispelling the False Narratives About the Safe T Act 

By La Voz Staff 

Q: Can you share with us your thoughts on the SAFE-T Act and what inspired proponents of the act to fight for the reforms? 

A: I support the reforms in the SAFE-T Act because they will help make our communities safer and restore a measure of justice to the criminal legal system. While the SAFE-T Act has many components, including more funding for officer training and resources, the media has focused mainly on the end of money bond, colloquially known as “cash bail.” 

Ending money bond is a huge victory for our people-based movement. There are people losing their jobs, their housing, and even custody of their children while awaiting trial in jail all because they can’t afford to pay their bond. Meanwhile, someone charged with the same offense who can pay is free to walk out. Money should not determine a person’s freedom, period. 

The SAFE-T Act makes sure that judges look at all the evidence in a case and weigh whether or not a person meets the criteria to be jailed pretrial, which revolves around whether they pose a danger to the community, themselves, or are a flight risk. 

The constitution says that we are innocent until proven guilty. The money bond system flies in the face of that fundamental right, and I’m proud to have been a part of eliminating it in Illinois. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the misinformation that has been propagated by some politicans and government officials about the SAFE-T Act? 

A: Conservative, Trump-supporting billionaires poured money into a misinformation campaign aimed at scaring voters in November about the end of money bond, and they failed. There was another Blue Wave in Illinois because voters aren’t as easily manipulated as these billionaires thought. Now our job is to continue to educate residents about the end of money bond and how that will reform the criminal legal system and impact people charged with crimes. 

Q: Can you speak to your constituents about how the SAFE-T Act could affect them, if at all? (particularly because there has been fear-mongering about this act) 

A: The SAFE-T Act is designed to provide both longterm and shortterm solutions to safety and justice issues in Illinois. We earmarked a lot of funding to a variety of organizations to get at the root causes of crime, but those solutions take time. The end of money bond will be the most immediate change for residents. Once it’s implemented– possibly over the summer due to a pending court case–no one will have the option to buy their way out of jail. Some people will be detained based on their charges, but most lesser offenses will be released pretrial. This will keep people in their jobs, in their homes, and keep wealth within our communities, instead of being forfeited to the courts. People charged with crimes will still be obligated to attend their court dates and receive their sentences, but many more people will be free pretrial. 

Q: There have recently been amendments to the SAFE-T Act, can you share your thoughts on those amendments and what it means for your constituents? 

A: The amendments to the SAFE-T Act were 1) technical changes that we always intended to make before implementation and 2) Necessary clarifications to make after conservative billionaires twisted language in the original act. It was important to make the intent of the act crystal clear to combat their misinformation. 

These amendments were the result of a year-long working group of legislators, law enforcement officers, and advocates. I was supportive of these amendments because they were reached thoughtfully and over time by a diverse set of stakeholders. 


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