Our Story


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 ten full-time employees and three interns.

Our Staff


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. They are a founding member of Just Practice Collaborative.

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. In 2016, Keisa received the Windy City Times “30 Under 30” Award, honoring the best and brightest individuals in Chicago’s LGBTQQIA+ youth community.


Rachel Lyons, Operations Manager

Rachel Lyons (she/her) is the Operations Manager at the Chicago Community Bond Fund. She became a volunteer with CCBF in 2017, and that led her to organize with Chicago Community Jail Support. Rachel has a decade of experience in social justice education, facilitation, and non-profit leadership. She has previously worked in faith-based organizing and advocacy in Chicago, and she led young adult formation programs in Baltimore and St. Louis. She is honored to have a role supporting the staff and mission of CCBF.

Rachel holds a BA in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA in Social Justice and Community Development from Loyola University Chicago.

Professional photo of Bethany Dean

Bethany Dean, Operations Associate

Bethany Dean (she/her) is the Operations Associate at Chicago Community Bond Fund. She has been a passionate volunteer for CCBF, supporting administrative tasks and paying bonds. She is an organizer with Chicago Community Jail Support and a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild.

Bethany previously worked with nonprofits providing direct services and housing advocacy to individuals and families. Her frustration with the gaps in resources available to families with very young children led her to launch Newbie Nest in 2020. Newbie Nest partners with other mutual aids and gives tangible support directly to families in our community to ensure they have the items needed to keep their little ones safe and healthy.


Gerald Polanco, Director of Programs

Gerald Polanco (he/him/él) is the Director of Programs at the Chicago Community Bond Fund. He is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago School of Law. He is a queer Latino advocate for low-income communities of color. His prior experience includes direct representation of tenants and people with disabilities while coordinating a Medical Legal Partnership between Uptown People’s Law Center and Heartland Alliance Health. His commitment to de-incarceration was fostered at First Defense Legal Aid where he represented individuals in CPD custody and facilitated Know Your Rights workshops on 4th, 5th, and 6th amendment rights. Gerald is excited to join CCBF and contribute to the work of dismantling systems of oppression and marginalization.


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.


Michelle Velazquez, Legal Advocacy Coordinator

Michelle Velazquez (they/them) is the Legal Advocacy Coordinator at the Chicago Community Bond Fund. They have extensive experience in youth organizing, immigration legal advocacy and advocating for labor rights for low-income and marginalized communities in Illinois. Michelle’s direct service work with LGBTQ+ detained immigrants ignited their advocacy work to shift focus to prison abolition and decarceration.

They currently reside in the southwest side of Chicago where they also volunteer in youth-based organizations as a mentor. Michelle is excited to continue their role as an advocate for communities impacted by criminalization.

Michelle received their BA in International Studies from DePaul University in Chicago.

Photo of Matt Sugai

Matt Sugai, Legal Assistant

Matt Sugai (they/them) is the legal assistant at the Chicago Community Bond Fund. Born and raised in Chicago, Matt became interested in the police and prison abolition movements in the summer of 2014, following the killing of Michael Brown by police and the subsequent uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, and they have had an active presence at protests against police brutality ever since. Matt’s relationship with CCBF began after their arrest at a protest in 2020, for which CCBF posted bond on their behalf. They are incredibly grateful for CCBF and their service to the community, and are excited to be part of their team.

Matt received their BA in Biology and Environmental Studies from Knox College and previously worked as file clerk at a civil litigation law firm. They aspire to use their experiences with the Cook County court system and as part of CCBF to inform a future career in criminal defense.


Dr. Zaria Davis, Director of Advocacy

Dr. Zaria Davis (she/her) is a mentor, educator, and advocate. Dr. Davis is coming from Pretrial Justice Institute where she served as Senior Associate for the Advocacy & Community Engagement team. She has done work locally and statewide related to pretrial, bail reform, and jail conditions.
Zaria serves as a coach and consultant for nonprofits and corporations servicing directly impacted communities through New Direction Coaching & Consulting, LLC. She is passionate about working with women in reentry and launched Filling The Gap Reentry Services in 2019, addressing many of the voids in services in her community for formerly incarcerated women. Zaria holds a DSW (Social Work) from Capella University, MSW from University of Cincinnati and BA in Sociology from Wilberforce University. She is currently enrolled in Eden Theological Seminary pursuing her MDiv.


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.


Santera Matthews, Community Engagement Coordinator

Santera Matthews (she/her) is a queer mixed Indigenous Keweenaw Bay Annishanabee organizer and educator from Milwaukee, WI. Her work is informed by her Feminist Abolitionist politics. She is a founding member of Black and Pink Milwaukee’s chapter and lead organizer for the #FreeChrystul Self-Defense Committee and is overall dedicated to abolishing the PIC. Santera previously served as the Campaign Coordinator for Coalition to End Money Bond.


In Memoriam: Malik Alim, Advocate

Malik Alim (he/him) was an organizer, journalist, and host/producer of The ReUp Podcast. He 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 organized large-scale voter registration and turnout campaigns and taught civics in CPS high schools. Malik was a former reporting fellow at City Bureau, a civic journalism lab on the South Side. He was 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.

Our Advisory Board

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

Our Board of Directors

Diana Parker, Treasurer


Tanya Gassenheimer, Board Chair

Tanya Gassenheimer (she/her) 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.


Ariana Steele, Board Secretary

Ariana Steele (they/them) is the founder of Never One Always Many LLC, a consulting firm that supports equitable, intersectional practices in the social sector. Ariana is a community organizer with whose focus is uplifting their fellow queer, trans, and intersex Black, Indigenous, people of color (QTIBIPOC). They co-founded a grassroots community organization called Black Queer & Intersectional Collective (BQIC) in Columbus, Ohio, where they led efforts to broaden LGBTQIA+ movements’ analysis of race and anti-racism movements’ analysis of gender and sexuality, both through a prison abolitionist lens. Ariana also led the creation of Columbus Community Pride, a pride festival centering QTIBIPOC in an effort to create safer, community-based spaces where QTIBIPOC can thrive. They hold a B.A. from Northwestern University and an M.A. from the Ohio State University, where their doctoral research focuses on how nonbinary people of color construct their identities through language. In their free time, Ariana enjoys painting, collaging, gardening, hiking, seeing live music, and traveling.


Andrea Juracek

Andrea Juracek (she/her), Executive Director at Housing Choice Partners, has worked in fair and affordable housing advocacy for over 15 years in the Chicago area. She is trained in conflict resolution, fair housing investigation, and fair housing law, and consults nationally with public housing and nonprofit agencies on creating equitable housing policies and programs. She is passionate about building a just society through the reimagination and rebuilding of societal norms and systems that have for centuries perpetuated racial, economic, and gendered oppression. Andrea is currently the Vice President of the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance Board of Directors and a co-founder of One Tail at a Time animal rescue. She received her BA in Women’s Studies from DePaul University and her MA in Contemporary History from University of Bristol, UK. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering with local ecological restoration projects and spending quality time with her two rescue dogs, Squints and Squirrel.


Victoria Moreno

Originally from the Southeast Side of Chicago, Victoria (she/her/ella) believes in the power of community-driven processes to lead transformative change. Her background includes direct service with Latinx families in school settings and individuals facing deportation proceedings, social science research on the intersection of immigration and criminal law through fieldwork and oral histories, and policy development in local government. She previously worked as a Policy Director with the Cook County Board of Commissioners where she helped to pass ordinances such as the Good Food Purchasing Program and the abolishment of the gang database formerly held within the Sheriff’s Office. She is now a Civil Rights Analyst with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, where she assists advisory committees throughout the country in developing civil rights recommendations that uplift the stories of directly impacted people. She holds a B.A. from DePaul University, an M.A. from Universidad de Guanajuato in Mexico, and an A.M. from the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, formerly SSA.


Maryam Kashani

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