Colton Bernasol is an editor and writer from Plainfield, Ill., a Southwest suburb in the Chicagoland area. He writes at the intersection of religion, society, and culture. You can sign up for his newsletter, Provisional, here.

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By Eliminating Cash Bail, Illinois Is ‘Setting the Captives Free’

by Colton Bernasol 11-07-2023

A man pays cash bail in the bond office to secure his brother's release on Dec. 21, 2022, at Division 5 of the Cook County Jail. Credit: TNS/ABACA via Reuters Connect.

Illinois set a historic U.S. precedent on Sept. 18, when it became the first state to abolish cash bail.

Cash bail, or the practice of imprisoning people accused of crimes before their trial unless they can pay a certain amount of money set by a judge, has a pernicious history. In the United States, cash bail has led to high rates of pretrial incarceration. Consider these statistics: There are more than 400,000 people in the United States who have been incarcerated without a trial. In Illinois, the problem has been especially sobering, with the Center for Criminal Justice of Loyola University Chicago reporting that in 2020 and 2021, 173,000 people were held in jail before a trial.

My Abuela's Belief and My Doubt

by Colton Bernasol 03-17-2023

Image of person making tortillas. Credit: Image by Dennis Schrader via Unspalsh.

I’ve never felt the certainty of divine presence in my life. I’ve chased it, I’ve wanted it, but I have never felt it. My religious experience is more akin to poet and essayist Christian Wiman’s experience. Wiman describes God as “... my bright abyss / Into which all my longing will not go.” I persistently feel my attempts to address God are met with emptiness, and yet I find it impossible to abandon the language of religion. What do I do about this “bright abyss” that I seek but never find? What do I make of this divine glow on the horizon of my experience that all but fades away when I seek it?