The Revolving Fund
The Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) operates a revolving fund that pays bond for people charged with crimes in Cook County. CCBF supports individuals whose communities who have been impacted by structural violence and whose bonds are completely out of proportion with their ability to pay. We are committed to building long-term relationships and organizing with people most directly impacted by criminalization and policing: people of color, especially Black people, and the poor. We believe that access to money should not determine freedom, that pretrial incarceration is fundamentally unjust, and that Chicagoans can take action now to help alleviate some of the harm caused by government policies while simultaneously working for systemic change.
How The Chicago Community Bond Fund Works
Police make an arrest. Some people charged with misdemeanors and all people charged with felonies go to bond court.
Bond decisions are made in mere minutes. This determines whether someone is released or detained while their case is pending.
People who can pay bond are released. People who cannot pay bond are incarcerated at Cook County Jail – often for months or even years.
Chicago Community Bond Fund helps family members and friends pay bond when they can’t afford it themselves.
After their bond is paid, the person is released from jail. People free on bond have better case outcomes than people are locked up.
At the conclusion of each case, the bond money is returned to CCBF’s revolving fund and can be used to free more from Cook County Jail.
CCBF strives to eliminate the use of monetary bond in Cook County entirely, but we are currently unable to assist everyone who needs help paying bond. CCBF will use a variety of factors to determine whether to pay bond for someone who applies for our assistance.
CCBF will use the following interactive factors to evaluate whether we will assist someone who applies for our help paying bond:
- Inability to pay bond required, including lack of access to family or community resources;
- Amount of bond to be paid;
- Existing support system, such as a family member or case manager who has committed to providing assistance making court dates and/or other forms of support;
- Risk of victimization in the jail, including but not limited to: gender identity and expression (namely transgender, gender non-conforming or LGBQI people), people with disabilities, and youth or elder status;
- Special health needs such as pregnancy, chronic medical conditions, or ongoing mental health treatment;
- Dependents or other family members who may be harmed by applicant’s detention, including risk of custody loss or Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) involvement;
- Immigration status and potential immigration consequences of a criminal conviction.
- Referral through or connection to established partner organization;
- Anticipated impact of detention on applicant’s employment, housing, educational attainment, and/or custodial rights;
- Position in relation to structural violence, community disinvestment, systemic racism, survival, and resistance; and
- Willingness to assist with raising money to cover any anticipated court costs, fines, or fees that will not be refunded to the bond fund.
Additionally, we work with organizations to pay bond for people arrested for political activism:
The threat of being incarcerated following a political action because of a high unpayable bond makes the risk of speaking out and taking action significantly greater for Chicago’s most marginalized communities. Raising money to pay bonds then requires groups and individuals to direct their energy away from their central projects to focus on emergency fundraising. The high cost of bond may also redirect community groups’ resources from their substantive work. Chicago Community Bond Fund strives to pay bond for people arrested while working toward progressive social change. By paying bond for people arrested for their political activity, Chicago Community Bond Fund acts as a movement resource in solidarity with Chicago’s diverse movements for liberation.
Depending on CCBF’s current financial circumstances, the number of people arrested, and the total actual or anticipated amount of the bonds, CCBF may either post bond directly or launch a specific fundraising campaign. CCBF occasionally coordinates fundraising campaigns with other groups and/or family members of the arrested people. Any money raised by CCBF that is not used to post bond will become part of CCBF’s revolving bond fund and will be used to post bond for others in the future.
In general, CCBF will only begin an action-specific fundraising campaign after it is clear that bond will be needed. CCBF feels it is important for the integrity of bond fundraising that asks for bond money be used to pay bond. In Chicago, most civil disobedience actions do not result in judges setting monetary bonds. Organizations or individuals planning actions in which people may be at risk of arrest should contact us for more details.