Project aims to free those too poor to afford bond from dangerous jail conditions as it works to end monetary bond in Illinois.
CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–December 22, 2016. Pre-trial detainees languish by the thousands in grim conditions in Cook County Jail, while their livelihoods and education are undermined and their families suffer—all because they are too poor to bond out from jail. The Chicago Community Bond Fund—CCBF—has hit on a dynamic strategy to provide both short-term and long-term methods to address this fundamental injustice.
This week, CCBF posted $1,000 to free the organization’s 50th person from jail or house arrest. This number includes parents, activists, and a plaintiff in the historic lawsuit brought on behalf of people who are detained pretrial simply because they lack the money to pay their bonds. The lawsuit, which was filed in October and has its first court date in next month, is the first ever class-action lawsuit of its kind in Cook County and seeks to end this unconstitutional practice.
CCBF operates as an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that works to end the use of monetary bond in Illinois, while, in the short term, simultaneously maintaining a revolving fund of donations to bond out low-income pretrial detainees who are jailed simply because they lack the economic resources to post bonds themselves.
“Pretrial detention and money bond have an astonishingly negative and entirely preventable impact on employment, education, housing, social security and medical benefits, and the custodial rights of those who are behind bars, putting enormous pressure on them to take plea deals just so they can get out of jail instead of taking their cases to trial,” says Max Suchan of CCBF. “In posting bond for a fraction of Cook County Jail’s pretrial population, we’ve enabled people to keep their jobs, benefits, get proper medical attention, and provide care for their children by restoring their liberty and removing them from an unsafe environment. The only just and long-term solution, however, is to end the use of monetary bond altogether.”
Cook County Jail holds over 8,000 detainees, 95% of whom are detained pretrial and have not been convicted of any crime. Of this number, the majority are there because they lack the money to post their bonds. CCBF has also supported activists from organizations like Black Lives Matter who have been arrested at political demonstrations over the last year—including two activists charged with felonies during a mass protest of Donald Trump’s planned March 11, 2016 Chicago rally.
“CCBF enabled me to be free to see the birth of my daughter and support my family,” says former detainee Diomar. “Bond is fundamentally unfair because it punishes poor people more—and its not just you that suffers, but also your entire family. They lock you away from your kids, and that really sets the tone for the case and puts you at a disadvantage from the very beginning. You can’t fight your case as well from a legal or emotional standpoint from the inside.”
Since December 2015, when the project began, CCBF has posted over $278,000 in bonds ranging from $500 to $50,000, spending the vast majority of this sum on felony bonds. To date, 9 bonds paid by CCBF have been returned to the organization, and no bonds have been forfeited.
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