I've come up with a theme for each week's "Pip's Perspective," and I'm very excited to share it with you all. Each week I will pick a community organizing topic to discuss. Feel free to send me your perspectives or questions if you'd like!
This week I am thrilled to share with you about Cook County Jail Support, or CCJS for short. CCJS is a volunteer created and run organization with a horizontal leadership structure. That means, everybody's vote counts and there are no leaders over others. I volunteer for CCJS as often as I can, which for about 8 months was once a week. Shifts are 2 1/2 hours on weekdays and 3 hours on weeknights.
We stand outside of Cook County Jail every evening to serve people who are being released and their families. We offer phone calls, rides, cigarettes, coats, gloves, scarves, hats, rides, a warming station when it's cold, a chair when someone wants to sit, snacks, water, a touch of grace. Every day, people come out of the jail. Always without phones, often thirsty and hungry, stressed, scared, and sometimes dope sick (in withdrawal). We meet people's most basic needs, we treat them with respect and kindness, and if we can, we help them get home.
It was most heartbreaking in winter, when people would very often come out without properly warm attire. Often, they'd already been cold sitting inside waiting to come out of the jail, but when they were actually released, and hit the outside cold, they'd be shaking by the time they got to us.
I do this work because my faith tells me that I should care for my neighbor, and that includes people getting out of jail. Thing about jail is, it's not like prison. In prison, you've been convicted. The majority of people in jail, however, haven't even been to trial yet, they haven't been declared guilty. How is this "innocent until proven guilty." However, they are still behind bars because they don't have the money to post bail. Without bail, they sit and languish while their families struggle on without them. I find this unacceptable, and that is why I do this work.