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Ahead of Illinois’ first-in-the-nation change, AP highlights disproportionate effect of cash bail

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An AP team of reporter Claire Savage, video journalist Melissa Perez Winder, photographer Erin Hooley, reporter Corey Williams and news desk editor Andrea Thomas highlighted the disproportionate effect of cash bail as a condition of pretrial release on people of color ahead of Illinois’ historic elimination of the system through stories of residents who lost jobs, homes and time with young children due to being unable to afford bail amounts. 

Thomas felt a key angle of Illinois’ criminal justice reform was often overlooked — how could it change the experience of Black and Latino people who were disproportionately affected by cash bail? Savage, Hooley and Perez Winder worked together to find individual sources willing to discuss their personal but painful experiences including a sense of being “punished twice because you’re poor.” Hooley and Perez Winder built trust with sources to secure visual opportunities, including photos and interviews in sources’ homes accompanied by family members.

Williams and Savage collaborated on the text story and Thomas handled the text edit, maintaining the focus on individual narratives along with critical detail on the Illinois law and other states’ efforts to change cash bail systems.

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