Alliyah’s Story

In July, 2017 Alliyah was escorted into Cook County’s central bond court without knowing what to expect. As the prosecutor began to read the allegations against her, there was no opportunity to refute the lies she was hearing. Before she even knew what was happening, the judge had announced that her bond was set at $150,000-D, meaning she would need $15,000 to regain her freedom while her case was pending. Shock began to overcome her as reality sank in. There was no way her family was going to be able to pay her bond, meaning she would be locked up indefinitely.

The next ten months of Alliyah’s life were spent inside Cook County Jail. Her family was determined to bring her home, so they began setting money aside to pay for her attorney and her bond. Alliyah’s mother ultimately gave up her home and moved in with friends to cut back on expenses. Isolated from her community, the only thing that kept Alliyah from slipping into destabilizing depression was the support she received from her family. Each week, her mother would visit and loved ones would write letters and send photos. Keeping in touch came at a significant cost, however. Alliyah’s family had to put $50 on her books every week just so that she could use the phone, and an additional $100 per week was required to pay for basic toiletries and food items. 

At the time of her arrest, Alliyah was just one year out of high school. She had a full-time job that allowed her to pay for her own car and was enrolled in a medical training program at Truman College. Alliyah was just four months away from completing the program when she was arrested. As each month in jail passed, Alliyah began to feel her life slip further and further away from her. Then one day, she saw the number for Chicago Community Bond Fund posted on a wall inside the jail. She asked her family to reach out, and a week later, CCBF had paid Alliyah’s bond and she was back with her community. Unfortunately, though, she was not entirely free.

Upon her release from Cook County Jail, Alliyah’s bond slip said she was assigned to “Pretrial Services,” which placed her on 24-hour house arrest without electronic monitoring. At any point and time, Pretrial Services officers could show up at her house. If she wasn’t home, she would be taken back to jail. Alliyah began to think that coming home was going to be worse than being in jail in many ways. Her home, previously a place to find solace, was now a cell from which she could not escape. Freedom was just outside her doorstep and nothing except the knowledge that officers might stop by was keeping her from it. 

For more than a week, Alliyah tried to contact Pretrial Services. After dozens of attempts, she finally made contact with an officer only to be informed that because she had spent so much time in Cook County Jail, she was no longer required to be on Pretrial Services. While the uncertainty of what might happen with her case hung over her head, at least she would be able to get back to some semblance of normalcy. 

Eight months later, Alliyah’s case resolved and she was given probation. With her case behind her, Alliyah is back to pursuing her dreams despite the negative impact of the felony on her record, which presents challenges to finding employment and housing. Alliyah has been able to enroll in a real estate program and hopes to one day own her own business. In several months, she’ll be done with probation and plans on eventually sealing her record and putting this experience behind her once and for all.

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