RIP: Lavera Scott
Chicago Community Bond Fund is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Lavera Scott, who died this past weekend while incarcerated pretrial in Cook County Jail on a charge of drug possession. Ms. Scott was 51 years old and was a candidate for deferred prosecution. She had originally been given an I-Bond, meaning she was released from Cook County Jail without payment of any money. While out on bond, Ms. Scott missed court one day, and a judge issued a warrant for her arrest with no possibility of paying bond (also known as a “no-bond”). This ensured that when Ms. Scott was located and arrested on the warrant, she would be jailed indefinitely.
CCBF did not know Ms. Scott, and we don’t know what caused her to miss court. It is obvious from the fact she attended court for several months and was arrested a few short months after she first missed court, however, that she did not flee prosecution. Right now, our court system responds with harsh punishment and zero tolerance towards anyone who misses court, even when they have a valid reason or are struggling with serious issues such as substance abuse, homelessness, and other challenges. Jails are incredibly dangerous places with high mortality rates, especially for anyone who struggles with addiction or mental health needs. Incarceration is always violent and harmful, but for some, it is a death sentence.
It is entirely possible Ms. Scott would be alive today if she had not been locked up for missing court or criminalized for her substance use. Even if being in Cook County Jail did not directly lead to her death, Ms. Scott should not have passed away locked away from her loved ones and community, with no on able to visit or see her. Cook County Jail is not a hospital or a treatment center, it is a cage.
Our sympathies go out to Ms. Scott and her loved ones, and we recommit to abolishing pretrial incarceration so that tragedies like this one no longer steal anyone’s life. Rest in peace, Ms. Scott.