Coalition of faith, labor, legal, and community groups to hold press conference at the next court date of historic lawsuit calling for a permanent end to money bond in Cook County.
CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)—September 8, 2017. On Monday, September 11, 2017, at 12:15 p.m. in Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington in downtown Chicago, Community and criminal justice reform organizations will hold a press conference before the first major court hearing in the lawsuit filed on behalf of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail. The Coalition to End Money Bond is mobilizing in support of the suit, which argues that Cook County bond practices—practices that result in the incarceration of thousands of people simply because they are poor—violate the United States and Illinois Constitutions and the Illinois Civil Rights Act.
At the press conference, advocates and people who were incarcerated for months in Cook County Jail because they could not afford bond will explain why Illinois needs permanent, statewide bail reform that will significantly reduce pretrial incarceration.
Cook County Jail currently incarcerates approximately 4,000 legally innocent people only because they lack the money needed to post their bonds. The inability to pay bond has severe consequences that can dramatically alter a person’s life. In just 24 hours, a person can be fired from their job or evicted from their home. After a month of pretrial incarceration, people lose access to public benefits such as Social Security and Medicaid. Once released from Cook County Jail, it can take months for individuals to regain access to these essential services.
“I was supposed to be presumed innocent under the law, but just because I did not have $3,000, I was forced to spend nearly three months in Cook County Jail. It was a horrible experience, Cook County Jail is an environment not fit for people. I lost the ability to support myself and to be there for my child. More than a year after I got out, I am still recovering financially. How much money you have should never determine whether you have to sit in a cage,” said Devoureaux Wolf of Chicago Community Bond Fund.
On October 14, 2016, a historic class-action lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division, challenging the practices used by Cook County Judges in setting monetary bonds. The suit was brought by two named Plaintiffs who seek to represent everyone incarcerated in Cook County Jail who has been found eligible for release, but who remains in custody solely because they cannot afford to post the required amount of bond set by a judge.
Ultimately, the lawsuit seeks a declaration from the court that the practices currently used by Cook County Judges to set monetary conditions of bond are unlawful. Lawyers for the Judges will be arguing that the entire lawsuit should be dismissed for various procedural reasons. If the lawsuit proceeds to the next stage, lawyers for the Plaintiffs will argue that Cook County’s current bond-setting practices actually violate the state and federal constitutions and the Illinois Civil Rights Act.
“Pretrial detention is fundamentally coercive,” says Sharlyn Grace, Senior Criminal Justice Policy Analyst at Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice. “As long as access to money remains a factor in whether or not someone is incarcerated or released pending trial, our criminal justice system is essentially punishing people for being poor. Furthermore, the enormous harms of our money bond system fall disproportionately on African American communities, who are the least likely to be able to pay monetary bonds.”
The Coalition to End Money Bond supports a binding court decision declaring our current system of wealth-based pretrial incarceration to be unconstitutional and requiring statewide statutory or policy changes to bring current Illinois practices into compliance with the law.
The Coalition to End Money Bond includes: A Just Harvest, Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, Chicago Appleseed, Chicago Community Bond Fund, Illinois Justice Project, Justice and Witness Ministry of the Chicago Metropolitan Association, Illinois Conference, United Church of Christ, Nehemiah Trinity Rising, The Next Movement, The People’s Lobby, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations.