A controversial change in pretrial release policies in Chicago’s Cook County has resulted in lower jail and prison populations as crime totals have declined, a new study concludes.

The study examined incarceration and crime before and after Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans began requiring in September 2017 that bail should be based on defendants’ ability to pay.

Critics have charged that the release policy has allowed too many dangerous suspects to be freed pending resolution of their cases. The court issued a report in May 2019 defending the policy changes.

The new report, by corrections consultants James Austin and Wendy Naro-Ware of the Denver-based JFA Institute and funded by the MacArthur Foundation, says that the pretrial jail population in Cook County has dropped from roughly 6,900 to 5,800 since the bail policy was changed.

The increase in the number of pretrial jail releases may have contributed to a decline in the Illinois prison population, Austin and Naro-Ware say.

The number of defendants sent by Cook County to the state prison system fell from 9,709 in 2016, before the bail reform, to 6944 in 2019.

Read the full article about Chicago Court's bail reform at The Crime Report.