Our Story

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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

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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 three full-time and three part-time employees.

Our Staff

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Keisa Reynolds, Transitional Executive Director

Keisa Reynolds (they/them, she/her) is Transitional Executive Director of Chicago Community Bond Fund. They previously served as CCBF’s Deputy Director. Keisa is a trained rape crisis counselor and domestic violence advocate who has provided direct services, facilitated workshops, and trained volunteers in Chicago and San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to CCBF, they worked as the Assistant Program Director at the UIC Women’s Leadership and Resource Center.

Originally from Richmond, California, Keisa received their BA in Cultural Studies from Columbia College and an MA in Women’s Studies and Gender Studies from Loyola University Chicago. They are a 2014 PPIA fellow with the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. Currently, Keisa is an MPA student at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

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Sara Brodzinsky, Operations Manager

Sara Brodzinsky (she/her) is the Operations Manager at Chicago Community Bond Fund. She has been a long-time volunteer with CCBF and has supported various aspects of the organization’s work from advocacy to paying bonds to court watching. Sara has also volunteered with the Massachusetts Bail Fund and Courtwatch Massachusetts supporting their bail reform efforts. She previously worked for CCBF supporting operations in 2018, helping the organization to establish administrative and operations procedures. Sara has also worked in administrative roles with Chicago area non-profit and legal organizations and as a water resources planner, working with communities in the Chicago area to address flood risks. She earned a Master of Public Policy from Tufts University in 2020 and also has degrees in Civil Engineering from University of Illinois at Chicago and Anthropology from Columbia University.

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Malik Alim, Advocate

Malik Alim (he/him) is an organizer, journalist, and host/producer of The ReUp Podcast. He has served as Membership Co-Chair for the Black Youth Project 100, a national collective of young Black organizers. As the Illinois organizer for the Roosevelt Institute, a public policy think tank based in New York City, he was responsible for cultivating and training a network of college students across the state in policy change advocacy. As a long time affiliate of Chicago Votes, he has organized large-scale voter registration and turnout campaigns and taught civics in CPS high schools. Malik is a former reporting fellow at City Bureau, a civic journalism lab on the South Side. He is also a member of the #LetUsBreathe Collective, an alliance of artists and activists organizing through a creative lens to imagine a world without prisons and police.

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Jianing Xie, Staff Attorney

Jianing Xie (she/her) is a Staff Attorney at the Chicago Community Bond Fund. She is passionate about supporting families impacted by the criminal legal system, and creating a racially just society for communities of color. Prior to CCBF, Jianing was a legal fellow at Cabrini Green Legal Aid, where she established a family defense practice to represent parents impacted by incarceration in their child welfare proceedings.
Jianing is a graduate of Harvard Law School, ’19 and Duke University, ’13. As a law student, she served as the Executive Director of Harvard Defenders and a student attorney in the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau’s family practice. In recognition of her contributions to the HLS community, Jianing was awarded the Frank S. Righeimer, Jr. Prize for Student Citizenship and named a Harvard Presidential Scholar. Jianing interned previously at the Orleans Public Defender and the Federal Defender Program of Chicago. She is admitted to practice law in Illinois.

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Christina Lorenzo, Intake Coordinator

Christina Lorenzo (she/her) a lifelong Chicago resident who cares deeply about her community, she first became involved with activist organizations by way of Project NIA. That led to her becoming a social worker with a focus on prison abolition. Christina has helped support action around public education funding and the occupation of Palestine. She first joined CCBF as a volunteer providing post-release support in 2015.

Christina received her BA in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University and an MA in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

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Briana Payton, Policy Analyst

Briana Payton (she/hers) is a Policy Analyst with the Chicago Community Bond Fund. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, she began organizing against criminalization and police brutality in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement as an undergraduate at Princeton University. Following her graduation, Briana moved to Chicago to work at the North Lawndale Employment Network, supporting their reentry services in areas heavily impacted by criminal legal system injustices. Since completing her fellowship, Briana has received her masters degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, where she concentrated in policy and administration with a focus on justice system transformation. During her program, Briana interned at the Federal Defender Program where she wrote mitigation reports that improved sentencing outcomes for clients facing federal cases, and since graduating she has completed a summer Policy and Organizing fellowship with the Safer Foundation. Briana is excited to continue supporting critical advocacy for long overdue change in the criminal legal system through her role with CCBF.

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Madigan Ellis, Administrative and Development Intern

Madigan Ellis (she/her) is the Administrative and Development Intern at the Chicago Community Bond Fund. Originally from Princeton, Illinois, Madigan received her BS in Law Enforcement Justice Administration from Western Illinois University. During a semester studying Criminology at Birmingham City University in England, she became interested in the prison abolition movement. Madigan moved to Chicago to pursue her Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from University of Illinois at Chicago. She is eager to join CCBF during her last semester of graduate school to build on her knowledge of community organizing and advocacy to end money bond and pretrial incarceration in Illinois.

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Daniel Alejandro Lastres, Law Clerk

Daniel Lastres (he/him) is a law clerk at the Chicago Community Bond Fund. He is a second year law student at the University of Chicago, where he also earned his degree in English Language and Literature in 2018. Daniel is focusing his studies on criminal law, mass incarceration, and the cumulative effects of inequality in the legal system and is Co-President of Defenders at University of Chicago Law School. He is an eagle scout who does legal observing with the National Lawyers Guild in Chicago and previously interned with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services.

Our Advisory Board

We are proud to have the help of these powerful community leaders in shaping our work:

Our Board of Directors

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Niya Kelly, Chair

Niya Kelly is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana.  She attended Loyola University Chicago, receiving her Bachelors, Masters and Juris Doctor, and lots of student loans.  She is currently the State Legislative Director at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. She joined the organization in 2015 as a policy specialist.  Her work focuses on the Illinois’ state budget, public benefits, youth homelessness and housing insecurity policies. In her work she has written and advocated several pieces of legislation including: providing new housing opportunities for minors experiencing homelessness; access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for community college students experiencing food insecurity; access to free birth certificates for people experiencing homelessness; an increase to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant for families; and broadening mental health services for minors in need.

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Jason Lydon, Secretary

Rev. Jason Lydon is a Unitarian Universalist minister, serving at the Second Unitarian Church of Chicago in East Lakeview. Jason is also the founder and former National Director of Black and Pink, an LGBTQ/HIV+ community focused prison abolition organization. Jason has been active in work challenging the harms of the criminal legal system since his own incarceration in 2003, focusing specifically on meeting the needs of survivors of sexual violence in prison. Jason lives in Rogers Park with his partner and their two cats and dog.

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Maya Schenwar, Member

Maya Schenwar is the Editor-in-Chief of Truthout. She is also the author of Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better and the co-editor of the anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States. Maya organizes with the Chicago-based prison abolitionist group Love & Protect, and is a founding member of CCBF. She has written about the prison-industrial complex for Truthout, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation, Salon, Ms. Magazine, and others. She is the recipient of a Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Chi Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, the Women’s Prison Association’s Sarah Powell Huntington Leadership Award, and a Lannan Residency Fellowship. Previous to her work at Truthout, Maya was Contributing Editor at Punk Planet magazine and worked as media coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Her new book co-authored with Victoria Law, Prison By Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms, will be released in April 2020.

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Diana Parker, Member

Diana Parker is the Executive Director for Midwest Access Coalition, an abortion practical support organization based in Chicago, where she has built relationships with clinics, abortion funds, and other practical support organizations across the country to collaborate on the creation of secure and efficient client-centered resources. As a believer in being transformed in the service of direct support, she also works with clients around the country, supporting them one on one during their journey accessing abortion care. Diana has been active in efforts to challenge the police state since 2012 through organizations such as Chicago Action Medical where she has provided consent-based first aid to protesters and helped create and run health and wellness trainings for community organizations fighting for systemic change. Diana holds degrees in English and Gender Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lives in Rogers Park, the best neighborhood in Chicago, where she was born and raised.

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Tanya Gassenheimer , Member

Tanya Gassenheimer is originally from the Boston area and bounced around the East Coast, living in New York City and Washington, DC, before making her way to Chicago. She is now a Staff Attorney on the Community Justice team at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. In that role, she advocates for parent-centered systemic change in keeping families together and out of the child welfare system. Before joining the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Tanya represented youth at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless on a variety of legal matters, particularly in the areas of healthcare and public support programs. She has also defended tenants against eviction and against termination of housing subsidies while at LAF (now Legal Aid Chicago). Tanya holds a Master of Social Work that she actively works to incorporate into her legal practice.

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