Illinois poised to become first state to end wealth-based pre-trial detention

(GUARDIAN) Kiran Misra, January 21, 2021

When Lavette Mayes was waiting for her trial, the judge at her bond hearing told her that she could go home to wait for her court date – if she paid 10% of her $250,000 bond as a deposit to the court – or remain in jail.

Mayes, a mother from Chicago’s South Side, couldn’t afford $25,000, so she was incarcerated for 571 days while legally innocent. While in jail, she lost her housing, her job and business, and thousands of dollars in fees and payments to the jail. She also almost lost custody of her two children. “It was like a domino effect, it wasn’t just me – it was everyone who was dependent on me,” Mayes told the Guardian.

“I never did think that I couldn’t win my case,” she continued. “But my kids were hurting, they were crying every time I went to court. I couldn’t do that to them.” Her experience trapped in the bond system led Mayes to take a plea deal, forgoing her right to a fair trial in Illinois.