Opinions Editor

Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.

Has anyone seen “The Scream”?

No, not the weird 1893 painting by Edvard Munch that critics said depicted an age wracked with anxiety and uncertainty.

The other “Scream” — a video portrait of anxiety over rising crime in Illinois that has enraged Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The political ad debuted Sunday in Chicago during a televised Chicago Bears game and struck the public pulse like no other campaign commercial in recent memory.

(Some stations, responding to the governor’s complaint, have since pulled the ad.)

This video was captured on a doorbell security camera. It shows a woman suddenly attacked by three men as she walks in her upscale neighborhood. She’s pulled to the ground and robbed. It looks as if her three attackers unsuccessfully try to drag her into their car.

The shocking video is followed by pictures of Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Brief copy states, “Pritzker. Lightfoot. How much worse does it have to get?”

The ad was put together by Dan Proft, a conservative Chicago radio host who heads the “People Who Play By The Rules” political action committee.

It’s a clear call for voters to turn away from the two elected officials, both of whom are running for election — Pritzker in November and Lightfoot in early 2023.

But the ad also dovetails neatly into the ongoing controversy over the criminal-social justice law whose most prominent feature — abolition of the cash bail system — takes effect Jan. 1.

Critics, including 100 of Illinois’ 102 states attorneys, have been warning the public for months about what they say is the law’s serious threat to public safety.

Among those recently joining the growing chorus of negativity is Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau.

“We must not allow this law to stand as passed,” Pakau said. “I can’t even begin to tell you how dangerous this act is.”

The significance of the impending bail-abolition proposal cannot be overstated. Under the law’s provisions, individuals charged with a variety of crimes can no longer be held in jail.

Only those charged with the most violent crimes — forcible felonies that carry mandatory prison sentences — can be detained.

Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz, president of the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Association, said she met with Democratic legislators last week to urge changes in the legislation.

“We’re concerned that people who are a danger to the public will not be detained,” she said.

The legislation was passed quickly by super-majority Democrats in early 2021 and proudly signed into law by Pritzker.

Critics, contending the law will make a growing crime problem worse, are hoping political pressure will prompt Pritzker and legislators to have a change of heart. But there’s not much sign that the general public has picked up on the issue.

As a consequence, the law’s defenders denounce the critics as either uninformed or racist or both.

Privately, news reports indicate Democrats realize the new law has serious flaws but are determined to concede nothing publicly before the election.

Springfield political analyst Rich Miller writes that connected Democrats concede that “changes will have to be made” during the post-election veto session. But for now, he said, they claim “all is well.”

One immediate impact on Jan. 1 will be mass inmate releases from county jails all over Illinois. That’s because hundreds of inmates who cannot post bail will qualify for release.

Rietz said it’s her estimate that 25 percent of Champaign County’s roughly 300 inmates awaiting trial will be released. She said members of her office are working on recommendations — either release or detain — to submit to an arraignment-court judge.

Trending Food Videos

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-393-8251.

Trending Videos