Studies show nearly 74% of people jailed in the U.S. are awaiting trial. Even when found not guilty, many lose their jobs, their homes, and even custody of their children. Illinois' Pretrial Fairness Act counteracts this by taking money out of the equation. Instead, judges will decide pretrial detainment based on a public safety evaluation.

Cash bail disproportionately impacts communities of color. Illinois is the first state to abolish it

CHICAGO (AP) — It took four and a half months for Shannon Ross’ life to unravel.

Ross, who describes himself as Indigenous and a person of color, was arrested in Chicago in October 2019 on weapons charges and ultimately found not guilty. But that came only after he spent months in jail awaiting trial, lost his home, car, job and countless moments with his children.

Ross couldn’t afford the $75,000 bond set during a hearing that he recalls lasted only a few minutes.

“I had to lose everything to prove that I wasn’t guilty,” he told The Associated Press. “It messes with you mentally, psychologically. It messes up relationships; it messes up the time you put in to build your life up.”

But Illinois is about to overhaul the system that upended Ross’ life. Illinois’ Pretrial Fairness Act, which abolishes cash bail as a condition of pretrial release, will take effect Sept. 18, making Illinois the first state to end cash bail and a testing ground for whether — and how — it works on a large scale.