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Bail Fund frees 13 inmates after Juneteenth march to Dane Co. Jail

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MADISON (WKOW) -- As Madison commemorated Juneteenth, the day when every slave in the United States learned about emancipation, activists worked to secure freedom for more than a dozen inmates in the Dane County Jail.

The movement in late May following the demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd's death. 350 Bail Fund started raising thousands of dollars to bail those awaiting trial, out of the Dane County Jail.

Jessica Williams who helped organize the drive said the predominantly Black prison population is suffering what they call a new form of slavery. She said Black men and women are sent to jail more frequently and face harsher punishments than their white peers.

Williams said that trend is even more apparent when you're dealing with low income communities.

"We also need to remember that some of our people are not free," she said. "We have people who are stuck in jail because they don't have enough money to pay a couple hundred dollar or a couple thousand dollars of bail."

That's why the group marched from Olin Park, up John Nolen Dr. to the Dane County Jail downtown to announce they raised enough funds to free 13 inmates.

The demonstration lasted hours following the Juneteenth rally at Olin Park, blocking traffic on John Nolen Dr. from 6:30 p.m. to nearly 8 p.m.

Williams said the Bail Fund keeps up its efforts year-round but it considers this spring and summer particularly important. COVID-19 outbreaks have been common in prison and jail populations including in Dane County.

Williams believes it's a moral imperative that Sheriff Dave Mahoney free the remaining inmates so they can wait for trials in a safe environment. She said the jail shouldn't wait on her funds to do the right thing.

"Jails are already inhumane and you can't social distance in there so keeping people in jail amdst a pandemic only because they don't have money is unacceptable," she said.

During the rally and online fundraising efforts, the Bail Fund raised more than $14,000 Friday alone, not including cash donations.

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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