Chicago Community Bond Fund

The Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) pays bond for people charged with crimes in Cook County, Illinois. Through a revolving fund, CCBF supports individuals whose communities cannot afford to pay the bonds themselves and who have been impacted by structural violence. Inability to pay bond results in higher rates of conviction, longer sentences, loss of housing and jobs, separation of families, and lost custody of children. By paying bond, CCBF restores the presumption of innocence before trial and enables recipients to remain free while fighting their cases. CCBF also engages in public education about the role of bond in the criminal legal system and advocates for the abolition of money bond. CCBF is committed to long-term relationship building and organizing with people most directly impacted by criminalization and policing.

Chicago, IL
EIN 47-5015710
inmate support
emotional support
civil rights
support services
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On March 12, 2015, Lavette Mayes was arrested for the first time in her life at the age of 45. Initially, her bail was set at $250,000, requiring her to post $25,000 to leave jail. (There is no private, for-profit bail bonds industry in Illinois. Instead, most monetary bonds require payment of 10 percent of the full bond amount directly to the clerk of each Circuit Court. The terms “bail” and “bond” are used interchangeably here.) Nearly a year and a half and two bond reductions later, Mayes’ bond was finally posted by the Chicago Community Bond Fund, a nonprofit revolving bail fund that is working to abolish money bond and end pretrial detention. Mayes’ struggle for freedom exemplifies the difficulties faced by the 70,000 people who experience incarceration in Cook County Jail every year. Here is her story.

My name is Lavette Mayes, and I spent 14 months in Cook County Jail, from March of 2015 to May of 2016. My bond was $250,000, requiring $25,000 to walk. I didn’t have a criminal record: This was my first time being arrested. Before this, I was just a person that was happy to be alive. I have two kids, a son that’s seven and a daughter that’s 16. Until I was arrested, we had lived together for their entire lives. They never had to deal with me going anywhere before this.

I didn’t have a strenuous life; I went to school and had some years of college. I volunteered in my community and even sat on the board at my Lutheran Church. My kids went to private school. I wasn’t rich or anything, but I had just started a business which I was excited about. It was doing extremely well in its first year, and I had close to $10,000 in the bank.

In March of 2015, I was in a domestic dispute. After the incident, I was taken away in an ambulance. I was hurt and I remember hugging my children and telling them everything would be fine. When I got to the hospital, the police were there, and they told me that no one could see me. “Why?” I asked. “These are my kids, and that’s my sister.” They told me I couldn’t see anyone until after I talked to the detectives.

My son begged that they would let me go. I remember telling them, “I’m going to come home, I just have to go to court,” not knowing I was about to spend 14 months in jail away from them. That was the last time I spoke to my kids.

Detectives took me to bond court on March 15, which took a whole day. I was woken up at six o’clock that morning and didn’t see a judge until one o’clock that afternoon. I remember them passing the judge a sheet of paper. The prosecutor said a few words, then the defense said a few words, and then the judge said “bail set at $250,000 with EM [electronic monitoring].” As I was getting processed, I was thinking that I was going home on electronic monitoring, and that I wouldn’t have to post a bond since I was going to be on electronic monitoring. Two days later, my attorney informed me that I had to pay $25,000 just to get home on electronic monitoring. All the time that I’d worked, my 45 years of life, everything was wiped out in 20 seconds. Over 45 years on Earth and not even a second to account for every year of my life. I quickly found that you are guilty until you are proven innocent.

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We are thrilled to share that the Pretrial Fairness Act, our landmark legislation developed with our partners at the Coalition to End Money Bond and the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, passed the Illinois legislature in January 2021! Communities across Illinois have been rigorously organizing to end the racist and classist use of money bond since 2016. Over the last 5 years, we have organized, advocated, protested and litigated to challenge the use of money bond in Cook County and across the state. Advocates, community members, lawyers, faith leaders, researchers, and—most importantly—directly impacted people have all played a critical role in this fight. We look forward to implementing the legislation and realizing the end of money bond across Illinois.