Freedom Inc. Posts Bail for 4 Black Inmates After Juneteenth March
Jessica Williams, the Black domestic violence advocate for Freedom Inc., addresses the crowd Friday at the Juneteenth celebration at Madison's Olin Park. Williams helps led an effort to post cash bail for Black men and women who are in jail because they cannot come up with the money on their own. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Madison-based nonprofit continues getting Black men, women out of jail who are only there for lack of money to post cash bail. 

This Juneteenth will mark freedom from the Dane County Jail for four Black individuals being held for their inability to post bail. 

Due to growing awareness surrounding incarceration and the risk it poses during the COVID-19 pandemic for inmates, along with a surge in fundraising since the killing of George Floyd, the Free the 350 Bail Fund has raised roughly $200,000. In the past month, it has posted bail for 13 Black inmates in the Dane County Jail, said Jessica Williams, with the nonprofit Freedom Inc. 

“We started raising money since the uprising started and have been bailing people out all month long. There are four people we are hoping to bail out tonight,” said Williams, the Black domestic violence advocate for Freedom Inc. “Then there are people we are hoping to get to throughout the weekend and next week. This bail out is an ongoing process for us.”

Williams said the group makes contact with the people in jail first to make sure they have a place to go once their bail is posted for them. 

“We want to make sure once they are out they have the services they need,” she said. “That they are not just out on the streets but have a place to go to and family that is going to come and get you.”

The fact the criminal justice system has stacked the deck against communities of color at every turn through unjust programs such as cash bail, has led to the United States having a quarter of the world’s entire prison population, despite making up just 5 percent of the world’s population. 

Wisconsin is among the worst offenders, especially when it comes to racially disparate outcomes.

There are 35 Black men and women currently in the Dane County Jail solely for their inability to post bail, according to Freedom Inc. Their total bail is about $4.5 million, with half having bail amounts of $20,000 or less. 

The Juneteenth Flag flew for the first time over the Capitol Friday. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Freedom Inc., Urban Triage, Dane County Timebank and the Party for Social and Liberation-Madison have been the drivers of regular rallies and demonstrations since Floyd’s death May 25. The groups advocate for the defunding of police and freedom for Black men and women in jail who are unable to afford the cost of their bail.

At the conclusion of the Juneteenth celebration at Madison’s Olin Park, Williams, Dahnweih and others will lead a march to the jail to post bail for the four individuals. 

“It is impossible to social distance inside of jail,” said Mahnker Dahnweih, Freedom Inc.’s community power building coordinator. “Solitary confinement is not healthcare. It’s actually torture. We need to get all of our people free.”  

Mahnker Dahnweih, Freedom Inc.’s community power building coordinator speaks during the Juneteenth celebration in Madison. With the rise of COVID-19 in the Dane County Jail, she said “solitary confinement is not healthcare. It’s actually torture. We need to get all of our people free.” (Photo © Andy Manis)

Dahnweih said when the organizations say they want to defund the police, it means to instead use the money to get people the services they need such  as housing, health care, transportation and food security.

“We need to be getting people what they need so they don’t come in contact with law enforcement in the first place,” Dahnweih said. “We are doing our part to make that happen. The state and the city and the county need to step up as well.”

A Juneteenth celebration at Madison’s Olin Park will be followed by a march to the Dane County Jail. Freedom Inc. and other nonprofits are set to post bail for four Black inmates unable to afford it on their own. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Williams said Freedom Inc. has been raising money for the past few years to bail Black mothers out of jail on Mother’s Day but is surprised by the $200,000 they’ve been able to raise in less than one month.

“I think it is great that people want to donate money because they are protesting. We hope and wish that people continue to be inspired to help our community outside of these uprisings,” Williams said.