Pretrial Detention is Broken
The Minnesota Freedom Fund is a community based nonprofit that combats the harms of incarceration by paying bail for low-income individuals who cannot otherwise afford it. We oppose "pay-to-play" justice and believe that our work has the potential to catalyze substantive criminal justice reform.
Immigration Bond Fundraiser
Four days a week folks who are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are brought before the court. Many who are facing return to their country of origin ask for nothing more than the opportunity to cash their paychecks, sell their cars, and put their affairs in order before departure. Others request the opportunity to gain asylum here in the US as a result of their extended residence, threat of harm if they return to their country of origin, or a handful of other reasons.
But for both of these groups there is a significant obstacle they face, the price of cash bail.
While not all individuals detained by ICE are offered the option, a comparatively small number are given the chance to leave ICE’s jails if they can pay a sum of money. Known as bond, this money is designed to ensure that they will appear at future court hearings. For some it is a chance to put their affairs in order and cash pay checks before returning home, for others it dramatically increases their chances of gaining asylum and staying in the US. The difference between making bond and being stuck in detention makes a huge difference for every detainee. It is the difference between the possibility of being reunited with family, gaining a chance to stay here, or being returned to jail for months or years while your case works it’s way through a thoroughly broken immigration system.
A coalition of community organizations is responding to this intolerable state of affairs by piloting a fund that will pay bond for those stuck in ICE detention and unable to secure release. Once those individuals are released we will ensure that they are connected with the support they need to complete their cases. When those cases resolve we will collect that money and put it toward freeing others. Such a bond fund will not solve all of the challenges of our broken immigration system, but it offers us a way to push back on an increasing aggressive detention system that seeks to forcibly remove members of our communities.
Misdemeanor and Felony Case Studies
The cases discussed in this summary relate to Freedom Fund clients who benefitted from our program during the month of January, 2017. Hennepin County Public Defenders were asked to send information about cases in which the Freedom Fund posted bail. As of the date of this memo (February 17, 2017), the Freedom Fund has posted bail in seventeen cases in Hennepin County since its inception. In all but one case, clients have appeared and bail money has been returned to the Freedom Fund. The identities of our clients and the attorneys that represent them have been concealed to protect their privacy.
Case Study - Client Keeps Job
“(Thanks to the Freedom Fund the client) was able to keep his job. This is a refusal case where client may actually have a decent defense. (The client) and I have spent an hour on the phone, he will be coming into the office before pretrial and he and I will review the squad video. This would not have been very likely to happen if he was held (in jail). He was considering pleading if (he couldn’t make) bail.”
Case Study - Client Keeps job
"(The client) had to work that night and would have lost his job if kept in custody. He had no cash on him and nobody he could call to come bail him out on a loan until his next paycheck. He made it to pretrial and we had to get a continued date. He has kept in contact in the interim."
Case Study - Client avoids Jail Time
"(The client) was charged with domestic assault against his adult sister. The offer was to plead guilty to disorderly conduct with stayed jail time …The client decided to wait to see if the Freedom Fund could post his bail before deciding whether or not to take a plea deal. Bail was posted and the case was dismissed at trial."
Case Study - Client Avoids Unfair Deal, Takes Back life
“Thank goodness (the Freedom Fund) posted bail…because the offer from the City Attorney was pretty terrible. The one City Attorney handling the case had prosecuted (the client) earlier in the year for another misunderstanding with her mom so he wasn’t giving any good offers. So, the case was set for trial. Literally right before we were going to start arguing our motions…the City Attorney dismissed the case because the complaining witness didn’t appear. Today the client is enrolled in GED classes and is working with a variety of Native groups to help get her back on track. This dismissal continues her on a positive path… I’m extremely thankful she didn’t have to take a bad offer just to get her out of jail.”
Case Study - Client receives much needed care
"It’s a good thing the Freedom Fund helped out, because when (the client) was released she was immediately brought to HCMC’s Acute Psychiatric Unit and kept there on (suicide watch) for 72 hours… She was released and made it to court that Monday morning."
Case Study - Client Avoids Jail Time
"(The client was) charged with 4th degree burglary… (they) plead not guilty and the case is set for trial. Without bail, it is likely client would have pled to get out of jail."
Meet Our Team
Simon Cecil, Executive Director / Board Member
Simon is a co-founder of Minnesota Freedom Fund. He has an enduring interest in finding ways to transition communities away from conventional profit driven economies toward systems that are based on solidarity. Simon is a graduate of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Carlson School of Management with degrees in Public Policy and Business Management. Simon has previously worked with community organizations in Central America, educating youth in the outdoors, writing policy reports, and performing program evaluation.
Judge Bruce Peterson, Board Member
Bruce Peterson has been a District Court Judge since 1999 in Hennepin County, Minnesota, which includes Minneapolis and its suburbs. From 2006 to 2008 he was the presiding judge of Hennepin County Family Court. From 2008 to 2013 he initiated and presided over Co-Parent Court, offering supportive co-parenting services to low income, unmarried parents establishing paternity. From 2013 to 2016 he presided over the Hennepin County Drug Court and specialized calendars for people who are homeless and women charged with prostitution. He was the 2013 recipient of the Hennepin County Bar Association Professionalism Award.
Ana Aleman, Board Member
Ana is a University of Minnesota 4th year undergraduate student studying Political Science and Sociology of Law, Crime and Deviance. She also serves as a board member for a charter school in Minneapolis. Helping her community is her passion, especially now during the Trump era.
Kristell Caballero Saucedo, Board Member
Kristell Caballero Saucedo was born in Mexico, raised in Minneapolis and graduated from North High School. As a low-income, first-generation immigrant woman, her work is committed to social justice that puts race and kyriarchy, a social system or set of connecting social systems built around domination, oppression and submission, at its nexus.
Kristell holds a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish from St. Olaf College. Most recently, she worked as a New Sector Alliance Fellow and later as the Racial Equity Project Manager at Northside Funders Group where she led and created a racial equity framework and toolkit. As a Fulbright Scholar in Mexico, Kristell focused her research on Afro-Mexican rights. She spent a year volunteering for International Roma Rights in Hungary.
Kristell is a 2017 Minnesota Council on Foundations' Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellow and is part of the Community Innovation Team at the Bush Foundation. She also works as a consultant to foundations and nonprofits on intersectional racial equity and inclusion and community-led work.
Jenna Andriano, Board Member
Jenna is a graduate of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and a tireless activist with a longstanding commitment to fighting for both gender and racial equity in the Minneapolis community.
Michael Friedman, Board member
Executive Director of the Minneapolis based Legal Rights since 2006, Michael has given special attention to reorienting the LRC's restorative justice services, particularly in developing successful and innovative strategies for allowing restorative processes to prevent school to prison pipeline business as usual. He has continued his advocacy interests by publishing several StarTribune opinion pieces, an article in Hennepin Lawyer, and many columns in community press. He continues to serve on several committees, including ones with the Hennepin County and Minnesota State Bar Associations.
Octavia Smith, Board member
Octavia is a graduate student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where her studies focus on intergenerational wealth building in communities of color and ending mass-incarceration. She is currently involved in a community based research project with Voices for Racial Justice on the health impacts of incarceration for incarcerated persons, their families and their communities. She is passionate about eliminating racial inequities in our criminal justice system.
David Whitney, Board member
David is a law student at the University of Texas School of Law and former Minnesota Freedom Fund operations associate. He hopes to become a public defender after finishing law school.