$1,000,000 in Bond Paid

Earlier this month, Chicago Community Bond Fund reached a new milestone: we have now paid over $1,000,000 in bond to free people in Cook County from jail or house arrest with electronic monitoring. This threshold is a testament to the amazing support we have received from each and every one of you who have made this work possible by donating your time, money, or other resources. This $1 million has freed 185 people who otherwise would have remained incarcerated. Their return to their families, jobs, and lives is something to celebrate. At the same time, we also want to recognize that if Cook County had honored these individuals’ right to pretrial freedom, this $1 million would not have been needed to purchase their freedom. Instead, it could have been used to provide real support to communities most harmed by criminalization and incarceration.

Paying bond for every person that called CCBF in 2018 would have cost $20.7 million. Because only a fraction of incarcerated people contact CCBF, this $20 million in ransom does not even include everyone in Cook County Jail incarcerated on an unaffordable money bond. Like all bond funds and community bail fundraisers, CCBF is meeting important and urgent needs by purchasing the freedom of a person whose community could not afford to purchase it themselves—but, this is just a stopgap in an unjust and morally bankrupt system. Posting bond is inherently an unsustainable activity that does not change the fact that there are presently thousands of people caged in Cook County Jail and many more in county jails across Illinois.

We also must remember that most people’s bonds are paid not by bonds funds, but by their loved ones. Money bond is draining Black, Brown, and poor communities of tens of millions of dollars each year. These are the same communities targeted by criminalization, and Cook County is stealing resources from the neighborhoods who can least afford to lose them. This massive theft is one of the many reasons why money bond is a tool of white supremacy and anti-Blackness. And it is a reason why we must always situate bail reform as part of the larger work of ending the prison industrial complex. We are lucky to do this work alongside the many other grassroots community efforts pursuing proactive community-building measures that strike at the roots of systemic racism and poverty by strengthening access to education, mental health resources, and healing justice.

CCBF has been paying bond for three years, and we hope that we do not have to pay bond for three more. We are working to end money bond and free the thousands of people who are still caged in Cook County Jail. Our vision is one of a world where people are not locked in cages, and where no one is punished for where they live or who they are. That vision will not be realized only through paying another $1 million in bond, nor even from $20 million. True change will come when the systems of money bond and pretrial incarceration end, and when the children, parents, siblings, and other loved ones locked in Cook County Jail are free. Join the movement to end money bail and help us free them all.

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