CCBF’s End of Year Report
In our fourth year of operation, Chicago Community Bond Fund surpassed one million dollars paid in bond to free people in Cook County from jail or house arrest with electronic monitoring. Passing this threshold was only possible because of the amazing support we have received from each and every one of you; from near and far, CCBF’s supporters made this work possible by donating your time, money, or other resources. At this time, we have paid more than $1.5 million to secure the freedom of more than 280 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 ransom money would not have been needed. Instead, it could have been used to provide real support to communities most harmed by criminalization and incarceration.
Like all community bail funds, bailouts, and bail fundraisers across the country, CCBF is meeting important and urgent needs by buying the freedom of people whose communities could not afford it themselves, but the practice of paying bond is just a stopgap in an unjust and racist system. It is an inherently unsustainable activity that does not, alone, change the fact that there are presently thousands of people caged in Cook County Jail—and many more people in other county jails across Illinois—simply because they cannot afford to pay a money bond.
This is why, over the past year, CCBF has dedicated even more energy towards expanding our advocacy efforts to end money bond and pretrial incarceration—not just in Cook County but across Illinois. In 2019, working with our partners in the Coalition to End Money Bond, we were able to help form the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, a network of more than thirty organizations across the state dedicated to promoting pretrial freedom. In July, the Network held its first convening in Springfield, Illinois, bringing together more than 170 people from 11 counties across the state.
Additionally, we continued to hold Cook County judges accountable to General Order 18.8A, a court rule directing judges to set money bonds only in amounts that people can afford. The Coalition to End Money Bond released our third report on bond reform in Cook County, Protecting Pretrial Freedom: Two Years of Bond Reform in Cook County. Working with our Coalition partners, CCBF has pushed back on false narratives put forward by the Chicago Police Department and elected officials that mischaracterize the impacts of bond reform in Cook County.
Thanks to our collective efforts, the number of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail reached a 30-year low of 5,552 people in February 2019. Because of reforms CCBF helped win and the work we have done to hold stakeholders accountable, more than ten thousand fewer people passed through Cook County Jail last year. We recognize that this is a tremendous accomplishment, but it also does not go far enough. CCBF remains committed to our eliminating money bond and working towards a world in which no one is incarcerated while awaiting trial.
We hope you enjoy looking back over what we accomplished in 2019!