Having grown up on the South Side and around Robert Taylor Homes, Faith* has always been aware of the Chicago Police Department. After months of being harassed by the police in the summer of 2017, Faith was arrested while picking her 8 year-old son up from school in September 2017. She sat in a Chicago Police holding cell for three days before being brought to bond court. Faith was receiving food stamps and Medicare prior to her arrest, but a judge ordered her to come up with $5,000 to secure her release pending trial. Since she couldn’t afford to pay it, Faith was caged in Cook County Jail.
While in CCJ, Faith lost her apartment and both her jobs. Her son had to move in with Faith’s mother. Before her arrest, Faith took her son to school every day. During her time in jail, Faith tried to piece together a care schedule for her son. The result was her son being driven from the South side to a cousin’s house on the North side at 3am each morning by Faith’s mother when she went to work. From there, her son would sleep for a couple of hours before being driven back down to the South side in time for school at 9am. The irony of this complicated and tiring routine is that Faith’s son’s school is only a few blocks from her mother’s home.
While incarcerated, Faith’s mother had to put money on her commissary account so she could call her son every morning to make sure that he was up on time for school and every afternoon to make sure he was doing his homework. Faith says, “I was still a parent in there.” One morning in Cook County Jail, while Faith was waiting for the phone, she was attacked and pepper-sprayed in her face by guards. Faith also says that the shower water had such high mineral content that her hair started falling out in patches.
In December 2017, CCBF bonded Faith out of CCJ so she could return home to her family. After a CCBF volunteer paid Faith’s bond, she sat in a Sheriff’s van for three hours while several other women were dropped off. It wasn’t until the middle of the night that she finally arrived at her mother’s home. During the intervening hours, Faith’s mother had to stay awake to answer the door because Faith could have been taken back to CCJ if he didn’t answer when she arrived.
Since then, Faith has been on electronic monitoring (EM) and has been granted movement to take her son to and from school each day. This has allowed Faith’s son to sleep in her home every night until it’s time to prepare for school instead of being driven all over the city before school starts. While this is a vast improvement from being in jail, Faith still faces many hardships on EM, including difficulty getting permission to leave the house to go grocery shopping and run other errands necessary to survive. Finding a job to support herself and her son is also nearly impossible while on EM.
Faith is staying at her mother’s home on the far South Side of Chicago, but because she was arrested on the North side, Faith’s court dates are in Skokie. It takes Faith over two hours each way to get to and from court on public transit, and she often worries about getting back home in time for the EM curfew—especially if the bus schedule changes or the CTA is experiencing delays. Faith’s case is still open, and while she is happy to be able to take her son to school and to be out of jail, she feels like electronic monitoring is keeping her life in a standstill while she waits for her trial.
Faith ultimately decided to take a plea deal, not because she thought she couldn’t beat her case, but because her time on EM has so greatly disrupted her life and the life of her family. Being free pretrial has meant that Faith has been able to take her of son while while fighting her case and also prepare him for her absence.
*Name and some identifying details changed to protect her identity.