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Infographics spark public discussion on SAFE-T Act

By Abby Schlueter

Infographics about the SAFE-T Act have been popping up on several Champaign County Facebook groups. However, the graphics use fear mongering techniques and have misled people about what the act entails and how it will effect Illinois citizens.

The Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity - Today, or SAFE-T, Act was passed in January of 2021 and has since gone through several revisions with the help of law enforcement and lobbyists. The main purpose of the act has not been changed, though. The SAFE-T Act strives to create a more balanced justice system for minorities and impoverished people so that one crime won't cause unthinkable losses.

The largest part of the act is focused on eliminating all cash bail as well as reforming police training, detaining and certification. The act's passing was split down partisan lines with Republican senators believing that it put too many restrictrions on law enforcement that would hinder their ability to create safer communities. Parts of the act relating to use-of-force have been changed to allow more leeway for officers due to pushback from law enforcement and Republicans in Congress.

The true danger with this act comes from the misinformation that has been spread about it, both from average citizens and from news outlets. The infographic released by WCFN News, an outlet in Southern Illinois, puts the act into the simplest of terms that don't represent the actualalities of its components. It gives no information on the system for proven risk offenders and instead suggests that anyone arrested would be released back into communities.

Tactics like this graphic have been used by several agencies throughout Illinois to scare voters, especially ahead of midterm elections in November, according to commenters on the posts.. While the act is set to fully go into effect in 2023, these graphics make it seem like there is still a chance to repeal it if the right officials are elected. While many of the act's policies are already actively in use, it is the cash bail abolishment that has caused the most tension and division.

While more small changes could be made to the act before it fully goes into effect in January, law enforcement has lessened their oppostion thanks to the amendments that have been made. Republicans, however, continue to call it the "de facto defund the police bill" in hopes of gaining their constituent's support through fear.

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