Russell Cunningham: Join the Reclaim Campaign

Russell Cunningham, a CRS leader and member of the Reclaim Campaign from First Baptist Congregational Church in Chicago, gave the following testimony at the Reclaim Campaign Launch on November 7, 2013.

Good evening.  My name is Russell Cunningham.  I want to thank God for allowing me to be here tonight.

I am a father of two kids, 10 and 8, and I support the Reclaim Campaign because I’ve experienced the injustice of our court system first hand.

Last April I was arrested for a non-violent Class 4 felony charge.  For those of you who have never been arrested, a Class 4 is the lowest level felony that you can be charged with.

Prior to that, I had never been convicted of a violent offense.  In fact the only convictions I had were related to me having an alcohol problem.

I would have thought that as a parent of two with no violent history, that I would have been a good candidate for a substance abuse program.  Instead, my bond hearing lasted less than two minutes, and the judge set a bond of $50,000.  There was no way I was able to come up with that amount of money so I was forced to sit in Cook County jail until my trial.

During this time, I was kept away from my family.  I ended up waiting six months.

Finally, after waiting six months, I was released on probation.

It costs the County $143 dollars a day to keep someone locked up.  That means that Cook County and all of you, as taxpayers, spent over $25,000 on keeping me locked up.

And what did you get for your money?

I was kept away from my family when they needed me.

I lost my job.

And, it took me longer to get into treatment and to be where I am now.

So I’m standing here as living proof.

I’m here tonight because I don’t want anybody else to go through what I had to go through.  Our court system punishes people for being poor and keeps families apart.

So we as the Reclaim Campaign are calling for Cook County to stop this destructive cycle and release non-violent detainees from the Cook County Jail.