In an article released today, the Chicago Tribune has attacked Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) for paying bond for people who cannot afford it themselves.
As much as this is an attack on pretrial freedom, it is also a defense of a two-tiered justice system, one that grants privileges to the wealthy while punishing people for poverty. This article is merely the latest in a series of racist, fearmongering attacks on pretrial justice reforms from the Tribune.
Last year, a Tribune columnist backed the FOP, calling for money bonds to be used as a form of pretrial punishment. More recently, the Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board suggested it was acceptable for a man with mental health needs to face serious illness and death in Cook County Jail because he had previously missed a court date.
They doubled down on this message in a second editorial last week, saying, “The best advice for staying healthy [during the pandemic] is to avoid trouble with the law.”
Like the articles before it, this piece continues to use exceptional cases to rationalize the unjust incarceration of tens of thousands of people. The 162 cases examined by the Tribune between February 2017 and February 2020 in fact represent just one quarter of one percent (~.27%) of the approximately 60,000 people released pretrial in those three years.
This sort of racialized fearmongering is what built mass incarceration, and it is what maintains it.
As we have said time and time again, policy cannot be made from a place of fear. We must remember that for every tragic story the Chicago Tribune tells in which someone is harmed, there are tens of thousands of other stories about families reunited, evictions avoided, employment retained, access to life-saving healthcare accessed, and people who were not coerced into taking plea deals simply to get out of a cage.