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.
Our Advisory Board
We are proud to have the help of a number of great community leaders in our work, including:
- Alan Mills, Executive Director, Uptown People’s Law Center
- Mony Ruiz-Velasco, Immigration attorney and expert on the immigration consequences of criminal charges
- Rosi Carrasco, Organizer, Organized Communities Against Deportations
- Eliza Solowiej, Executive Director, First Defense Legal Aid
- Mariame Kaba, Founder and Director, Project NIA; Co-founder, Chicago Freedom School
- Jennifer Vollen-Katz, Executive Director, John Howard Association
- Beth Johnson, Director of Legal Programs, Cabrini Green Legal Aid
- José López, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center
- Sarah Staudt, Attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at Lawndale Christian Legal Center
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
- Free Naomi Freeman
- Fund Black Futures, for BYP100
- Lifted Voices Art Blockade
- We Stand with Laquan McDonald
- Free the Trump Protesters
- Support the Beal Family
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
Some of Our Clients
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 May 16, 2016, CCBF posted $9,500 to free Lavette from Cook County Jail after 14 months behind bars. CCBF contributed $7,500 to supplement the $2,000 that her friends and family pooled together to support her release.
Lavette is a 46-year-old mother of a 6 and a 15 year old child. She was charged with aggravated domestic battery after allegedly getting into an altercation with her former mother-in-law while going through a divorce. Despite the fact Lavette had never been arrested before and was the primary caregiver for her children, she was initially given a $250,000 bond that she was unable to pay. During Lavette's long pre-trial incarceration, she was torn apart from her children and also lost her job and her ability to financially support her family.
Unfortunately, even after we posted her bond, Lavette was required to wear an electronic ankle monitor that severely restricted her movement. She had to request permission from the Cook County Sheriff every time she needed to go to court or the grocery store and even to take her children to school. In October 2016, Lavette pleaded guilty to an amended charge of aggravated assault in exchange for time served. She has since shared her story on Chicago Tonight and with other news outlets as part of the campaign against money bond and pretrial detention.
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.
CCBF posted $3,000 to free Devoureaux from Cook County Jail on June 11, 2016. Devoureaux is a 24 year-old well-known footwork artist living on Chicago's West Side. He was arrested in April and charged with aggravated battery to a police officer. As is often the case when someone is charged with aggravated battery, it was, in fact, Devoureaux who was injured during the arrest. Simply because he could not pay his bond, Devoureaux had to spend over 1.5 months in Cook County Jail.
While Devoureaux was in jail, his uncle who helped raise him, passed away unexpectedly. With CCBF's help, Devoureaux was freed two days before his uncle's memorial service and able to serve as a pallbearer. It was very important for Devoureaux to be there to say goodbye and honor his close relationship with his uncle.
Jail can be a particularly dangerous place for people with chronic illnesses. While in jail, the unhealthy food made Devoureaux's pre-existing kidney condition worse, and he began urinating blood. Devoureaux's health has greatly improved now that he is able to eat nutritiously again. He is also able to continue earning a living performing, and to volunteer at schools and community anti-violence events.
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!
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.
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601 S Califronia
Chicago, IL 60612