In this thesis, I analyze the implementation of General Order 18.8A, which mandated that pretrial judges take a defendant’s ability to pay into consideration when setting bond amounts in Cook County Central Bond Court. I draw upon in-depth interviews with defendants and ethnographic observation of Central Bond Court to examine the interactions between court officials and defendants and the ways in which racial and socioeconomic inequality is reproduced in the courtroom. I complement this research with quantitative data collected by the Circuit Court of Cook County on pretrial incarceration rates and bond types. Based on these different forms of data and analysis, I answer two questions. First, I ask how court officials implement General Order 18.8A and interact with defendants and members of the public in Cook County Central Bond Court. Second, I ask to what degree General Order 18.8A encompasses defendants’ perceptions of what justice and reform should look like within the pretrial system. In the final sections of this thesis, I provide specific policy recommendations to improve the proceedings and procedures in Cook County Central Bond Court. Furthermore, I argue that policymakers and members of the public must reimagine societal conceptions of guilt, justice, and reform before substantial change can be made to the system of pretrial detention and to the criminal justice system more generally.




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