I-Bonds Less Recognizable As Milestone In Gang Violence Strategy

As part of Chicago’s citywide initiative to reduce gang violence and criminal activity, police have been denying I-bonds to known gang members. I-bonds, or personal recognizance bonds, are a type of bond that allows the defendant to be released from police detention without paying bail; they just have to promise to show up for their court date. The results of the policy change have been called a “milestone” by the City.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Chicago Tonight

According to Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy during his recent appearance on ABC7 News, since the Gang Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS) was implemented this past July over 5,500 arrested gang affiliates have been denied I-bonds.  Officials announced that they will continue to deny I-bonds for gang-affiliates who are charged with Class A, B or C misdemeanors. This measure is said to lower the risk of arrestees returning to a potentially volatile scene to retaliate with shootings or other violent crimes. Gang member or not, the policy of denying I-bonds also applies to those who are on parole, have been charged with weapons possessions, or those with an outstanding warrant. I-bonds are not offered to those charged with more serious crimes and as McCarthy points out, “I-bonds are not a constitutional right.”  The manner by which the new policy is carried out, however, may involve constitutional issues as disparate impact on certain groups and potential arbitrary determinations are scrutinized. In August, McCarthy made an appearance on Chicago Tonight to explain the rationale behind the policy change, explaining that, “The [arresting] officer would still be in their district processing paperwork while the gang member walked out the door. That’s counterproductive. Why would you let the criminal out before the officer?”  The race to the door seems to have warranted a policy change last July and that change is being reiterated now by McCarthy.

As part of the GVRS, the CPD has conducted a ‘gang audit’ identifying prominent gangs, gang factions, territories, alliances, conflicts, organization and level of propensity for violence. When a suspect is taken into custody, a criminal background check allows police to identify whether or not they are known gang members. After the suspect has been processed, they are placed in a holding cell to wait for a bail hearing, which usually takes no more than 48 hours. Depending on the circumstances, a judge will then set the terms of their release.

In practice, the policy change may not pack the crime-fighting punch implied by officials. Though they may not qualify for release on their recognizance, gang members remain eligible for “C” or “D” bonds, the latter requiring payment of only 10% of the bail price. Bail for a Class A or Class B misdemeanor is set at $1500 and $1200 for a Class C misdemeanor. With only 10% out of pocket, gang members can be released for a minimum cash bail of between $120 and $150 and be back on the streets in a day or two at most.  Furthermore, of the 5,500 defendants denied recognizance due to their gang-ties it seems likely that some wouldn’t have been eligible in any event if they were on parole, in possession of a weapon, or named in an outstanding warrant.  McCarthy cites the additional time off the streets as a “cooling off” period that prevents retaliatory violence, but he does not suggest the extent to which violence may have been averted by the change in policy and 5500 slightly longer detention periods.

Milestone or not, officials maintain that the Gang Violence Reduction Strategy is moving the city in the right direction and that the denial of I-bonds is one of the key components used to mark its effectiveness.  Furthermore, the policy may aid the policing strategy during the upcoming election events in the City.