Chicago Gun Offenders More than 6 Times as Likely to Bond Out as Shoplifters


Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart hit on familiar themes while giving their solutions to gun violence plaguing the area Tuesday.

At a conference hosted by the City Club of Chicago at Maggiano’s Banquets, Johnson reiterated his stance on enforcing stronger penalties for violent gun offenders, while Dart focused on revamping the bond program to help non-violent offenders reintegrate into society. He also noted that the “wrong people” are getting out on bond, with those arrested on gun charges six times more likely to post bond than shoplifters.

Johnson called for tougher sentencing laws for repeat gun offenders, pointing out the absurdity of sentencing people who steal hot dogs to more time than someone caught with an illegal firearm.

“Last year, of all the homicide offenders we arrested … 40 percent of them — almost half — had prior gun convictions. So what does that tell us?” Johnson said. “It’s the same guys that choose that lifestyle.”

Johnson blamed the city’s sky-high gun violence on repeat gun offenders who view the judicial system that gives out “slap of the wrist” sentences as a joke.

Dart focused on his plan to reform the bail bonds system with reentry programs, stressing that a nonviolent offender shouldn’t stay in jail just because of financial burden.

Last month, Dart said the county should eliminate its use of cash bonds, which he dubbed costly and ineffective.

At Tuesday’s conference, Dart said that in the last month, 25 percent of gun offenders were able to come up with bail money while only 4 percent of those arrested for retail theft were able to bond out and be released.

Last month, terminally ill inmate Ryan Hanley died in custody because he couldn’t afford to post 10 percent of his $50,000 bond for shoplifting, the Sun-Times reported. Hanley was accused of stealing $300 worth of merchandise from a Jewel-Osco.

Dart listed cases of violent offenders who re-offended after posting bail — including Kevin Martinez, who was charged last year with aggravated assault of a police officer with a weapon while he was out on a bond for a previous firearm-related charge.

“I have other ones, too, and they all have the same drum beat — which is that the wrong people are being released,” Dart said.

With his proposed bond program, Dart hopes to address this issue by detaining anyone who, through an intensive background check, is deemed dangerous to society, while letting nonviolent criminals go free with access to pre-trial services such as anger-management classes or drug-addiction programs.

“So the idea is put them where they need to be and put programs to correct them,” Dart said.

The panel was moderated by Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell.

Johnson has complained about lenient sentences repeatedly in the past, including at a press conference Friday after he said that residents literally “beg me” to do something about the violence in their communities. Continue Reading

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