On Monday July 6, 2020, Dane County sheriff, Dave Mahoney, put out a press release naming our organization and some folks that we had paid bail for and sent it to multiple news outlets around the state. The press release was filled with lies and misrepresentations and sought to paint us, and the folks we helped free, in a bad light and throw shade on the important organizing work that we do. This is our response.
Free The 350 Bail Fund is committed to creating a world free of prisons and policing. When we say #FreeThemAll, we mean FREE THEM ALL. We free people from the Dane County Jail – prioritizing Black people, especially Black women, queer folks, youth, and caregivers – due to the vast racial disparities present in the Dane County jail, and the over-policing of Black people in our county. We do this because we believe that jail is an inhumane and unjust intervention and it makes us less safe as a community and as a society.
Nobody should be in jail, especially simply because they don’t have the money to pay court-ordered bail. The bail system was designed by our current criminal legal system – Free The 350 Bail Fund does not write the rules, but we use them to free people who judges and the sheriff detain while awaiting trial. The criminal legal system claims to presume innocence, and yet it cages people before they have been found guilty of any crime, sometimes for a year or more! Instead of presuming innocence, Sheriff Mahoney speaks about people awaiting trial as if they had already been convicted of crimes they are only charged with!
Furthermore, in the midst of a global pandemic, Free The 350 Bail Fund serves our community’s public health interests by helping reduce the number of people in jail. We know jails, prisons and detention centers are breeding grounds for COVID-19. The sheriff has failed to free people despite knowing the harm that jailing people during a pandemic causes. The sheriff has also used solitary confinement, deemed to be torture by the United Nations, to segregate people infected with COVID-19, instead of freeing them to hospitals or their homes. By doing so, the sheriff is putting our entire community at risk, especially our Black and Brown community members who are at higher risk of suffering complications from COVID-19 because of these very disparities. Jail should not be a death sentence!