Minnesota Freedom Fund - Criminal Bail Fund
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 Pilot
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.
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
Kassius O. Benson, President
Kassius Benson is a criminal defense lawyer in private practice. He is Board Certified as a Criminal Law Specialist by the Minnesota State Bar Association. He represents clients in federal and state courts in Minnesota, Washington, D.C. and several federal courts throughout the country. In 2002, Kassius founded Kassius Benson Law, P.A. with offices in Minnesota and Washington, D.C.
Kassius graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1996. After law school, Kassius started his career as a trial attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C. and then the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In both positions, he defended clients charged with serious criminal offenses in the adult trial division of each office. Although eventually leaving public defense to start his own firm, Kassius has maintained his connection and dedication to public defense advocacy.
Kassius is an annual faculty member at the Minnesota State Public Defender Trial School sponsored by the Minnesota Board of Public Defense where he trains public defenders in trial skills and public defender advocacy.
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
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.
Rory Fleming, Board member
Rory is a Minnesota attorney. After graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 2015, Rory was a fellow at the Fair Punishment Project, a joint initiative of Harvard Law School's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice and its Criminal Justice Institute. During law school, Rory worked at the UNC Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity and was a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.
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.
Greg Lewin, Board Member
Greg is a graduate of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and works as a researcher for the Minnesota Private College Council. Greg volunteers with groups that fight structural inequities, build community resilience against fascism, and advance the rights of workers and protesters.
Simon Cecil, Founder / 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.
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.
Kristell Caballero Saucedo, Board Member
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 & inclusion and community-led work.
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.
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.
Laura Wilson, Board member
Laura Wilson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School and practices immigration law at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. She has a background in community organizing. Laura was drawn to the work of MFF after witnessing the myriad ways that incarceration has harmed her clients and hindered their access to justice.