wo weeks after Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, Chicago police shot and killed DeSean Pittman, a Black 17-year-old. A few days after DeSean’s death, his family gathered for a vigil to uplift his memory. Chicago Police came and disrupted the vigil by shouting racial slurs, threatening attendees, and knocking over candles that had been lit for DeSean. The vigil ended with the arrest of five of DeSean’s friends and family members, five of whom were incarcerated in Cook County Jail because they could not afford to pay a money bond.
Future founding members of the Chicago Community Bond Fund worked with DeSean’s family to raise nearly $30,000 to free everyone arrested at the vigil. It took four months to raise the money needed to free the last person, a cousin of DeSean’s, from Cook County Jail. After he was released, his mother pointed out how no one should have to experience what they just went through: fundraising for months to get their child out of a cage. She and others impacted by the arrests at the vigil began working with activists from across the city to launch the Chicago Community Bond Fund, which made its public debut in November 2015.
In our first year of operations, CCBF posted over $300,000 to free 45 people from Cook County Jail or house arrest with electronic monitoring. In our second year, CCBF paid over $250,000 to free 59 people, and we paid over $370,000 to free 71 people in our third year. This past year, our fourth in operation, we paid over $550,000 to secure the freedom of 108 people.
We keep DeSean in our hearts as we continue to fight for a world without police violence, money bond, and pretrial incarceration.
Who We Are
Our Organizational Structure
Information about CCBF’s volunteer-driven structure
Nearly 100 volunteers sustain CCBF’s work, including operation of the revolving bail fund and local and national advocacy efforts to end money bond and pretrial incarceration. These volunteers work tirelessly to follow up on requests for help paying bond, fundraise money to replenish the revolving fund and sustain our other work, support people freed from jail, and push forward CCBF’s educational and campaign work.
Decisions about who to post bond for are made by a Review Committee composed of people who are not part of the collective and who are involved in Chicago’s many movements for abolition and racial justice. We are committed to ensuring that people who are formerly incarcerated, people whose loved ones are currently or formerly incarcerated, and people whose communities are disproportionately harmed by criminalization have decision-making power regarding who CCBF posts bond for. Review Committee membership rotates, but current Review Committee members include organizers with Black and Pink Chicago, Love & Protect, Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration, and Survived and Punished.
For the first two years of our existence, CCBF was an all-volunteer organization. As the organization rapidly grew, we hired our first employee in February 2017. While much of CCBF’s work is still driven by volunteers, CCBF now has a staff of eight full-time employees and one intern.