200 People Freed
The number of people incarcerated pretrial in Cook County continues to drop to new historic lows, and yet the need to purchase the freedom of other people remains. Last week, CCBF paid bond for our 200th person. A staggering $1,083,995 has moved through our revolving bail fund—money that would have otherwise been extracted from Cook County’s most marginalized communities or resulted in months or years of pretrial incarceration. We are grateful to each and every one of you that has donated to this grassroots community effort to free our neighbors while we do the long-term work of ending wealth-based pretrial incarceration in Illinois. Freeing people from jail or house arrest through the payment of ransom is a crucial part of our work, but we recognize that it is not the answer to the problems we face.
Paying bond for people that can’t afford it is an important intervention in a morally bankrupt and racist system designed to punish the poor and enrich the county through bond money that is retained in fees, fines, and costs. This intervention is not enough on its own, which is why CCBF is committed to changing this system. Alongside our partners in the Coalition to End Money Bond, we are not only making progress, we are winning. The Coalition’s grassroots organizing, policy advocacy, and partnership with civil rights attorneys led to the issuance of General Order 18.8A in 2017. The order requires Cook County judges to set money bonds only in amounts people can afford to pay with the stated goal of ensuring no one is incarcerated pretrial solely due to an unaffordable money bond. Bolstered by our courtwatching and accountability efforts, the order has reduced the number of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail on any given day by nearly 2,000 people. More importantly, the decreased use of money bonds it caused has prevented approximately 7,000 to 10,000 people per year from ever entering Cook County Jail in the first place.
These reforms are one step in the process of abolishing money bond and pretrial incarceration, but there is more work to do. That’s why the Coalition to End Money Bond is currently asking the Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices to accept input from impacted individuals and the general public. The commission will be making important recommendations for the future of Illinois’ pretrial justice system in December 2019. We believe the primary recommendation should be one that ends Illinois’ unconstitutional money bond system while ensuring pretrial freedom for people across the state that would have otherwise been incarcerated. To make that goal a reality, the impacted communities and advocates that have forced this conversation must be included in the commission’s process. Please join the Coalition to End Money Bond in demanding that a public hearing be included as part of the commission’s process. Add your name to our petition here.
CCBF remains committed to paying bond to free our friends and neighbors, and we plan to pay bond for more people in 2019 than ever before. If this work is not supplemented by a robust effort to permanently end wealth-based incarceration, however, we are at risk of merely becoming a part of the very system that we are trying to eliminate. Together, we are going to end money bond and pretrial incarceration—not just in Cook County but across Illinois.
Be sure to follow the Coalition to End Money Bond on Facebook and Twitter at: @EndMoneyBond! You can also check out the Coalition’s new website at www.endmoneybond.org. Thank you for getting us to this point!