Chicago Community Bond Fund
The Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) pays bond for people charged with crimes in Cook County, Illinois. Through a revolving fund, CCBF supports individuals whose communities cannot afford to pay the bonds themselves and who have been impacted by structural violence. Inability to pay bond results in higher rates of conviction, longer sentences, loss of housing and jobs, separation of families, and lost custody of children. By paying bond, CCBF restores the presumption of innocence before trial and enables recipients to remain free while fighting their cases. CCBF also engages in public education about the role of bond in the criminal legal system and advocates for the abolition of money bond. CCBF is committed to longterm relationship building and organizing with people most directly impacted by criminalization and policing.
Harm Reduction in a Prison Nation
The Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) is a revolving fund that will pay bond for people charged with crimes in Cook County, engage in education about the role of bond in the criminal legal system, and advocate for the abolition of money bond. CCBF supports individuals whose communities who have been impacted by structural violence and whose bonds are completely out of proportion with their ability to pay. We are committed to building long-term relationships and organizing with people most directly impacted by criminalization and policing: people of color, especially Black people, and the poor.
We are an all-volunteer effort, composed of people who believe that access to money should not determine freedom, that pre-trial incarceration is fundamentally unjust, and that Chicagoans can take action now to help alleviate some of the harm caused by government policies while simultaneously working for systemic change.
What Is bond?
Bond is money charged by the state to release a person charged with a crime from custody while their case proceeds. (Bond is also referred to as “bail.”) In Illinois, bonds that require cash payment are called Deposit Bonds or “D-bonds”; people charged with crimes are required to pay 10% of the D-bond amount set by a judge as a “deposit”. For example, if you are given a $1,000 D Bond, you have to pay $100 cash in order to be released from police or county custody.
Bond is essentially unfair and unjust. High bonds are justified by the idea that they keep us safe, but setting monetary bond undermines the very idea that safety should govern release or detention decisions. Someone who is not dangerous should be released regardless of their access to money; likewise, someone who is truly dangerous should not be released simply because they can pay bond. Our current system makes wealth, not safety, the primary determinant of whether someone is released while awaiting trial. Add to this the fact that 70% of pre-trial detainees at Cook County Jail are detained for nonviolent offenses and that Black defendants are generally more likely to be given cash bonds and have bonds set at higher amounts than white defendants, and the merits of money bond become hard to identify.
There is also no proven correlation between payment of bond and someone returning to court. Under Washington D.C.’s much-lauded Pretrial Services Agency, 85% of all defendants are released, no money bond is used, and 88% of all released defendants remain arrest-free and attend all court dates. Fewer than 1% of the people who are re-arrested are alleged to have committed a violent crime. In New York, 96% of the Bronx Freedom Fund’s clients attended every one of their court dates–a rate higher than that of people who paid their own bond!
Why Is Making Bond so Important?
The simple inability to pay bond often has severe negative consequences on the very things that help someone charged with a crime succeed: employment, stable housing, and strong family and community connections. Pre-trial detention can cause loss of housing and/or jobs, separation of families, and lost custody of children. It also results in higher rates of conviction, as people are forced to plead guilty in order to go home rather than fight their charges. With the stakes so high, CCBF hopes to alleviate the harm for as many people as possible by assisting them in paying their bonds, allowing them to remain free while fighting their cases.
Who We Are
Our Volunteer Structure
Information about CCBF’s volunteer-driven structure
Nearly 100 volunteers sustain CCBF’s work, including operation of the revolving bail fund and local and national advocacy efforts to end money bond and pretrial incarceration. These volunteers work tirelessly to follow up on requests for help paying bond, fundraise money to replenish the revolving fund and sustain our other work, support people freed from jail, and push forward CCBF’s educational and campaign work.
Major organizational decisions are made by a collective that strives for consensus. Collective members direct the organization’s strategic planning, support and supervise staff, and interface with CCBF’s advisory board and partner organizations.
Decisions about who to post bond for are made by a Review Committee composed of people who are not part of the collective and who are involved in Chicago’s many movements for abolition and racial justice. We are committed to ensuring that people who are formerly incarcerated, people whose loved ones are currently or formerly incarcerated, and people whose communities are disproportionately harmed by criminalization have decision-making power regarding who CCBF posts bond for. Review Committee membership rotates, but current Review Committee members include organizers with Black and Pink Chicago, Love & Protect, Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration, People’s Response Team, and Survived and Punished.
For the first two years of our existence, CCBF was an all-volunteer organization. As the organization rapidly grew, we hired our first employee in February 2017. While much of CCBF’s work is still driven by volunteers, CCBF now has a staff of four full-time and two part-time employees.
Our Advisory Board
We are proud to have the help of these powerful community leaders in shaping our work:
- Emmanuel Andre, Attorney, Northside Transformative Law Center
- Rosi Carrasco, Organizer, Organized Communities Against Deportations
- Beth Johnson, Senior Policy Advisor, Cabrini Green Legal Aid
- Mariame Kaba, Founder and Director, Project NIA; Co-founder, Chicago Freedom School
- José López, Executive Director, Puerto Rican Cultural Center
- Alan Mills, Executive Director, Uptown People’s Law Center
- Mony Ruiz Velasco, Executive Director, PASO (West Suburban Action Project)
- Eliza Solowiej, Executive Director, First Defense Legal Aid
- Sarah Staudt, Staff Attorney, Lawndale Christian Legal Center
- Jennifer Vollen-Katz, Executive Director, John Howard Association
Devoureaux Wolf is an artist from Chicago known as King Detro. He is also an organizer with the Chicago Community Bond Fund. In 2017, after being a host on Walacam for three and a half years, Devoureaux started his own program and YouTube series called "Dance N Out Chicago" to keep young people out of the streets. He is also a volunteer with All Kids Matter Foundation where he organizes school performances and helps deliver food to people who are experiencing homelessness. Devoureaux became involved with CCBF after spending three and a half months in jail because neither he nor his family could afford to pay his bond. His family had raised funds for the bond but his uncle passed away while Devoureaux was incarcerated and the family's money had to be used for the funeral instead. Since then, Devoureaux has been a strong advocate against the use of money bond and pretrial incarceration. He has appeared in Chicago Magazine, BET, Fox32 and has spoken publicly at press conferences and rallies.
Emma Rubin is CCBF's Co-Executive Director, where she leads CCBF's operations and development work, and facilitates organizational planning. She joined CCBF as a volunteer in 2015, and became a collective member in May 2016. Emma has been involved in efforts for racial and economic justice for over fifteen years, including supporting the organizing of California prisoners against solitary confinement, the campaign for a domestic workers' bill of rights in California, and organizing for justice in Palestine.
Emma holds a Master's in Public Health degree from San Francisco State University and has been active in mobilizing public health workers around police violence. In addition to experience in non-profit administration and program management, Emma worked as an adult educator, and is passionate about using popular education for social transformation.
Director of Advocacy
Irene Romulo first started organizing in California around housing and immigrant rights issues. In Chicago she has been deeply involved with Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) to organize against deportations and the criminalization of Black and Brown communities. In the past she has been involved in international solidarity organizing work and has organized alongside day laborers to address workplace issues. She believes in organizing that centers the leadership of communities most affected, puts people and the planet before profit, and strives to create a better place for us all.
Lavette Mayes is an organizer and advocate with the Chicago Community Bond Fund. Lavette is a powerful advocate against pretrial incarceration, electronic monitoring, and monetary bail. She has written for In These Times and Broadly and has been interviewed on Chicago Tonight, NPR, and CBC radio. Her story was the inspiration for a short film featured at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018. Lavette became involved with CCBF after she was incarcerated for 14 months in Cook County Jail because she could not pay her monetary bond. Lavette alsospent an additional five months incarcerated in her home as a result of electronic monitoring.
Director of Programs
Matt McLoughlin is an activist and legal worker. He is a co-founder of CCBF and currently serves as our Director of Programs. Cutting his teeth as an organizer with Occupy Chicago, Matt went on to organize around school closures, immigrant rights, and racial justice. For years, he has helped lift up, document, and support local and national social movements, including organizing jail support and solidarity actions. Matt also works with the National Lawyers Guild's Chicago chapter as the Mass Defense Coordinator.
Some of the People Freed
After four months of incarceration and another four months on house arrest, a jury found George "not guilty" on July 26th in his aggravated unlawful use of a weapon case. CCBF is thrilled that George, a 19-year-old father of an infant daughter, can now return to his family and life. At the same time, we are outraged that George was forced to endure eight months of devastating pretrial punishment for charges that he was ultimately exonerated of.
Before he was arrested in November 2016, George was a senior in high school, working a regular job, and had just found out that he was going to be a dad. He was accused by police of having a gun in his possession and locked up in Cook County Jail with a bond of $50,000 dollars, even though he had no background. Unable to afford the $5,000 required for his release, George was incarcerated for four months under terrible conditions. During his pretrial incarceration, he considered taking a plea deal just to escape the situation. George says he wants everyone to know that jail is hell.
On March 28, 2017, CCBF posted $5,000 to secure George's freedom. After a pretrial services officer told his judge that George hadn't contacted the office quickly enough after his release, George was put on electronic monitoring. Electronic monitoring (a form of house arrest) made it impossible for him to go to school, work a job, or financially support his daughter and girlfriend. Frustrated by restrictions on his movement and worn down by the criminal legal system, George—again—almost took a plea deal. Nevertheless, when he was finally went to trial, George prevailed!
Now that his case is over, George plans to spend time with his daughter, stepson, girlfriend, mother, and siblings. Still, he lost eight months of his life to pretrial incarceration and house arrest—time that he can never get back. These conditions amounted to punishment meted out before trial, and highlight the problems of pretrial "services" or incarceration based on certain allegations such as gun possession. George's case exposes the brutality of a system that punishes people before they have faced trial and reminds us that when the system doesn't succeed in forcing a plea, some people will be found to be innocent of the charges against them. It further highlights how the criminalization of guns is not and will never be a real solution for addressing social harms, and instead only gives prosecutors and police more ammunition for imposing punishment—even before individuals have been convicted.
George wants people reading his story to understand that this could happen to anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a photo of George and one of his lawyers from the Cook County Public Defender's Office, who won the jury trial.
Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, CCBF posted bond for Andrea so that she could celebrate at home with her family. Andrea is a 33 year old mother of three who was incarcerated in Cook County Jail for 36 days because she could not pay a $10,000 bond.
Andrea had only one previous dismissed case and no prior convictions. She is the primary caretaker for her 5, 11, and 14 year old children, and was working as a home healthcare provider at the time of her arrest. Despite all these factors in her favor, a judge ordered her held in jail unless she could post 10% of her $100,000 bond. Andrea's mother Gloria was arrested at the same time and also held on a $100,000 bond. Their family had already maxed out their resources and even borrowed money to get Gloria out first because of her health needs, so Andrea was not sure how she would get out other than by pleading guilty.
Unfortunately, being incarcerated for over a month caused Andrea to lose her job. Because she works in health care, it is extra important to Andrea's future that she is now free and able to fight her case. Though Andrea was feeling a lot of pressure to plead guilty in order to get out of jail, having a conviction on her record would have made it much harder for her to work in the future. Now that Andrea is out, she and her mother can strategize together and participate in their own defense. Andrea has been reunited with her kids and has found a new job at a hotel so that she can continue supporting herself and her family while her case proceeds.
In December of 2015, CCBF joined with Love & Protect, Moms United Against Violence & Incarceration, and 15 other organizations to free Naomi Freeman, a pregnant 23-year-old mother of two. Naomi had already spent six months in Cook County Jail. Determined to get her back to her family and out of jail before giving birth,we raised her $35,000 bond in less than a week.
Naomi is charged with first-degree murder because she chose to survive an attack by an abusive partner. Had Naomi not acted in self- defense, it is likely that she would be dead. Instead, Naomi survived and is being punished for saving her own life.
In total, 345 people donated to Naomi's freedom in amounts ranging from $3 to $1,000. More than $13,000 was raised in online donations to supplement a $26,000 grant from the Women's Justice Fund housed at Crossroads Fund. The WJF was established in the 1990s specifically to post bond for domestic violence survivors criminalized for actions taken in self-defense. Partially as a result of this successful campaign to #FreeNaomiFreeman, the WJF has now been transferred to the Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF), where it will remain available as a revolving fund designated to serving women charged with crimes related to self-defense.
On April 17, 2016, CCBF posted Leon's $2,500 bond. Leon was 46 years old and had been working with Growing Home Inc, an urban farm and job training program. He was arrested for allegedly stealing toiletries from a convenience store. Unable to pay his own bond, Leon was poised to spend weeks (if not months) in CCJ. Among other consequences, that would have kept Leon from completing Growing Home's job training program and from benefitting from the support of his case managers there.
Bonding Leon out not only brought him freedom, but also allowed him to graduate from Growing Home. Two months after we posted Leon's bond, he secured full-time employment at a restaurant. Leon's case was dismissed one month after CCBF posted his bond, and the funds returned to us so we could bond out additional people.
On June 13, 2016 CCBF posted a $10,000 bond to free 24 year-old Morgan from Cook County Jail. Morgan was 37 weeks pregnant and had been in CCJ since March 2nd. Morgan was charged with child endangerment following the accidental death of her 14 month-old son. Grieving and charged with responsibility for her own profound loss, Morgan was locked away from her family and community during the worst possible time.
If she had given birth while incarcerated, Morgan would have had only up to 48 hours with her newborn girl before being forced to turn her over to a relative or the state. That immediate separation would have prevented mother-child bonding during a crucial period of attachment. Morgan would have then faced the impossible choice between accepting a plea (and the corresponding lifelong criminal conviction) or remaining in jail awaiting trial for what could be the first two years of her daughter's life. Morgan gave birth, in freedom, to a beautiful baby girl on July 2.
Maria and her 19-year-old daughter Destiny were arrested on April 28, 2016 and charged with aggravated battery against a police officer just days after Maria's son and Destiny's brother Gino was shot and killed in North Lawndale. Maria's bond was set at $50,000 and Destiny's was set at $25,000, as they grieved for Gino from Cook County Jail. The next day, they were both released on electronic monitoring. Due to Cook County Sheriff regulations that two people cannot be on house arrest at the same address, Maria was dropped off at her sister's house in one neighborhood and Destiny was dropped off at her mother's in a different one.
Over the next two weeks, Maria and Destiny were denied every request for movement they and their attorney made. Maria and Destiny both worked as cleaners through a temp agency. Destiny was also a senior in high school. Despite letters and paperwork from Maria's employers and Destiny's school, the only movement they received was to attend Gino's wake and funeral---which had already been rescheduled once because of their arrests. Because their requests for movement to go to work were repeatedly denied, Maria and Destiny were in danger of losing their apartment due to their inability to support themselves while on house arrest.
Recognizing the urgency of their situation, CCBF posted the $7,500 in bond on May 16th. Maria and Destiny were both able to return to work, and Destiny was able to finish school. Most importantly, they are both able to fight their charges without the social isolation and financial burden of house arrest. CCBF is committed to challenging the use of electronic monitoring as a viable alternative to complete release pending trial. What happened to Maria and Destiny illustrates that, like jail, house arrest has a profoundly disruptive impact on employment, education and community healing.
On September 9, 2016, CCBF posted $2,500 to free Lee from Cook County Jail. Lee is 24 years old and has lived in Chicago for his whole life. Lee had been locked up since December 23, 2015; he endured nine months of incarceration just because he couldn't afford to post bond. Lee continues to face a felony charge for allegedly intimidating a witness (who is also a Chicago police officer). Lee's chances in fighting his case, however, have greatly improved now that he is out of jail and able to participate in his own defense.
Though being incarcerated pretrial caused Lee to lose his job and housing back in December, Lee was able to find a new full-time job within weeks of being out on bond. Since then, he has also obtained his own stable housing and is planning to return to school in the coming months to study computer science and programming. Lee has volunteered with various local nonprofits since he was 17, and he continues that work now that he is free.
On Sunday, May 1st, CCBF posted $2,000 to free Steven from Cook County Jail. Steven was 23 years old and shared an apartment with his fiancée, mother, and uncle in Humboldt Park. The month before, Steven was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance. Unable to pay his bond, he spent more than 30 days in jail before his fiancée contacted CCBF for help paying his bond.
Prior to being arrested, Steven worked at a car shop, but he lost that job as a result of being incarcerated so long. After he got out, Steven spent each day looking for work and caring for his ill mother. Steven's family is very supportive, but simply lacked the savings to put up $2,000. Immediately following his release, his family threw a barbecue to celebrate Steven's freedom.
Less than a week after being bonded out, Steven called us to let us know that his case was thrown out at preliminary hearing after the judge found the testimony of the police officer who arrested him not credible! Congratulations Steven, nothing will give you back that time you spent in a cage, but we are glad you no longer have these charges hanging over your head!
A year ago yesterday, Pierre Loury was shot and killed by Chicago Police. Pierre, a 16 year-old resident of the West Side, was trying to climb the back fence to his home in North Lawndale when police shot him in the back. The next evening, hundreds of people gathered outside Pierre’s home to hold a vigil and stand in solidarity with his family. Following the vigil, hundreds marched down the block to the Chicago Police black site at Homan Square and briefly shut down Interstate 290. The march came off the highway at the Harrison and Kedzie Police Station, where police attacked demonstrators and arrested several people.
Shimron was among the people arrested a year ago today. After being sent to bond court the next morning, his bond was set at $30,000 (requiring a payment of ten percent or $3,000). CCBF posted Shimron's bond that evening, preventing him from spending the next year incarcerated while awaiting trial. Shimron was represented by a volunteer attorney through the National Lawyers Guild of Chicago’s Mass Defense program.
Last month, Shimron’s case resolved without Shimron having to spend any additional time behind bars. With his case behind him, Shimron is getting ready tour the southeastern United States promoting his music! You can listen to Shimron's music here: https://superfree-man.bandcamp.com/. The $3,000 that was posted to free Shimron will now come back to CCBF’s revolving fund and be used to free someone else from Cook County Jail.
Last year, CCBF posted bond for 11 demonstrators standing up for social justice and liberation throughout Chicago. Since CCBF was created in the fall of 2015, no one arrested at a progressive protest in the city of Chicago has had to spend more than 48 hours in Cook County Jail after their bond was set.
A year after Pierre's murder, still no CPD officers have been held accountable. CCBF is proud to stand with Black Lives Matter Chicago and Pierre's family (The 411 Movement For Pierre Loury) as they demand justice for Pierre and other victims of police violence.
How We Post Bond
CCBF strives to eliminate the use of monetary bond in Cook County entirely, but we are currently unable to assist everyone who needs help paying bond. CCBF will use a variety of factors to determine whether to pay bond for someone who applies for our assistance.
CCBF will use the following interactive factors to evaluate whether we will assist someone who applies for our help paying bond:
- Inability to pay bond required, including lack of access to family or community resources;
- Amount of bond to be paid;
- Existing support system, such as a family member or case manager who has committed to providing assistance making court dates and/or other forms of support;
- Risk of victimization in the jail, including but not limited to: gender identity and expression (namely transgender, gender non-conforming or LGBQI people), people with disabilities, and youth or elder status;
- Special health needs such as pregnancy, chronic medical conditions, or ongoing mental health treatment;
- Dependents or other family members who may be harmed by applicant’s detention, including risk of custody loss or Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) involvement;
- Immigration status and potential immigration consequences of a criminal conviction.
- Referral through or connection to established partner organization;
- Anticipated impact of detention on applicant’s employment, housing, educational attainment, and/or custodial rights;
- Position in relation to structural violence, community disinvestment, systemic racism, survival, and resistance; and
- Willingness to assist with raising money to cover any anticipated court costs, fines, or fees that will not be refunded to the bond fund.
Additionally, we work with organizations to pay bond for people arrested for political activism:
The threat of being incarcerated following a political action because of a high unpayable bond makes the risk of speaking out and taking action significantly greater for Chicago’s most marginalized communities. Raising money to pay bonds then requires groups and individuals to direct their energy away from their central projects to focus on emergency fundraising. The high cost of bond may also redirect community groups’ resources from their substantive work. Chicago Community Bond Fund strives to pay bond for people arrested while working toward progressive social change. By paying bond for people arrested for their political activity, Chicago Community Bond Fund acts as a movement resource in solidarity with Chicago’s diverse movements for liberation.
Depending on CCBF’s current financial circumstances, the number of people arrested, and the total actual or anticipated amount of the bonds, CCBF may either post bond directly or launch a specific fundraising campaign. CCBF occasionally coordinates fundraising campaigns with other groups and/or family members of the arrested people. Any money raised by CCBF that is not used to post bond will become part of CCBF’s revolving bond fund and will be used to post bond for others in the future.
In general, CCBF will only begin an action-specific fundraising campaign after it is clear that bond will be needed. CCBF feels it is important for the integrity of bond fundraising that asks for bond money be used to pay bond. In Chicago, most civil disobedience actions do not result in judges setting monetary bonds. Organizations or individuals planning actions in which people may be at risk of arrest should contact us for more details.
Projects & Press
Press Featuring CCBF
Below, you can find a sample of some of the stories media outlets have published about the bond fund.
- A Community Solution to Cash Bail
- Naomi Freeman, Mom In Jail for Killing Abuser, Released on Bond: Advocates
- Punished for Survival: Domestic Violence, Criminalization and the Case of Naomi Freeman
- The Chicago Community Bond Fund Is Taking On Cash Bond One Person at a Time
- Bail Reformers Aren’t Waiting for Bail Reform
- Groups Look to End Monetary Bail in Cook County
- The People Who Bailed Out the King
- National Movement Hopes to Help Hundreds of Thousands Jailed Because They Can’t Afford Bail
- Has Bail Reform in America Finally Reached a Tipping Point?
Our Past Campaigns
The bond fund has raised money for a number of specific goals, in addition to our everyday work. You can see the pages for past campaigns below.
Advocacy and Research
- The Pretrial Justice Institute
- The OSF Access to Pretrial Justice Project
- Community Resources For Justice Pretrial Project
- Ending the American Money Bail System
- ABA Pretrial Release Standards
- Fundamentals of Bail from the National Institute of Corrections (PDF)
- Bail Fail: Why the U.S. Should End the Practice of Using Money for Bail
- The Bail Trap
- Too Many People in Jail? Abolish Bail - an editorial by CCBF founding member Maya Schenwar
- Christy Dawn Varden, et al. The City of Clanton (PDF)
- A boy was accused of taking a backpack. The courts took the next three years of his life.
- Kalief Browder, 1993–2015
- The Challenge of Collaboration: Cook County Goes After MacArthur Foundation Safety+Justice Challenge Grant
- Transformative Bail Reform
Other Bond Funds
Your donation supports CCBF’s work!
The Chicago Community Bond Fund is a 501(c)3 organization. Your donation is tax-deductible. Please consider donating today, and contact us with any questions.
We can accept recurring donations through PayPal.
To donate by check, mail a check payable to Chicago Community Bond Fund to 601 S California, Chicago IL 60612.
If You Need Help With Bond
Please do one of the following:
Fill out our form
The best way to get this process started is to fill out this form.
You can send a very detailed message to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Leave us a message at 1-844-END-BOND, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
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You can send us mail:Chicago Community Bond Fund
601 S Califronia
Chicago, IL 60612