Chicago businessman Dr. Willie Wilson bailed out 58 Cook County Jail detainees early in November, including some women who were pregnant and could not make their $50 bond and were in jail awaiting a January court date.
The release of the 58 detainees is part of Wilson’s goal to bail out more than 100 men and women in time for Thanksgiving Day. Wilson has put aside $50,000 of his personal funds to bail out more than 100 detainees by Thanksgiving Day. He commented that “I will give each person I bail out $200.” When asked why, he said “if they don’t have the money to bail themselves out, at least they will have some money to buy food when they are released.” The detainees released in mid-November represented black, white and Hispanic ethnicities.
“I will not discriminate in my mission to free non-violent offenders who have obviously made a mistake in life. I was troubled to see women, some pregnant, in jail for misdemeanors and who had very low bonds,” said Wilson. “This is a very serious problem. When they show up in court, I get my money back and can recycle those funds to free even more detainees,” he said. Wilson will continue to post bonds throughout November. He expects to free 50-60 additional detainees by Thanksgiving.
Those released are all invited to a holiday dinner at the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, at 4301 W. Washington, to celebrate their release and the holiday season. Illinois governor Bruce Rauner will join the church’s pastor, Reverend Dr. Marshall Hatch, in welcoming the former inmates to dinner.
In addition to financing the release of 100 inmates, and hosting them for a holiday meal, Wilson plans to have 10 not-for-profit organizations present, representing 75 similar groups that work in prison ministry. The organizations are all committed to providing housing, jobs and clothing for the former detainees.
A December 5th meeting is scheduled with Governor Rauner and representatives of the 75 not-for-profit organizations. Restoration of funding needed to provide services for the freed detainees, will head the agenda.
According to Wilson, Governor Rauner has agreed to support a bill which will be introduced by Representative Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-34th) and supported by Representative La Shawn Ford (D-8th), that will allow a person charged with minor misdemeanors, to get out of jail.
“One woman was in jail for 221 days for stealing two candy bars. People should not be held in jail on minor misdemeanor charges, or wait in jail for months for trial, for such misdemeanors,” said Wilson. He added that “some are in jail for small amounts of marijuana or for trespassing on property. They don’t arrest people in wealthier communities for similar crimes. The law should treat people equal in all communities.”
Wilson expressed gratitude to Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin and Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, for assisting him in working with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. Both played key roles in his release efforts, interfacing with Dart’s office and facilitating freeing of the detainees.
To support the release of low level, non-violent offenders, donors can contribute Dr. Wilson’s bail bond program by clicking on: drwilliewilsonfoundation.org, or by texting to 312 818-4975. “I am asking all of Chicago to support this program, but if they don’t, it will be just me and Jesus,” he said.