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. They are a founding member of Just Practice Collaborative.  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. In 2016, Keisa received the Windy City Times “30 Under 30” Award, honoring the best and brightest individuals in Chicago’s LGBTQQIA+ youth community.

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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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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.

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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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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.

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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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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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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