Podcast: Bail and the bigger picture in Dane County

A conversation with Jessica Williams of the Free The 350 Bail Fund.

A conversation with Jessica Williams of the Free The 350 Bail Fund. (Photo by BobbyLight on Flickr.)

The fight against mass incarceration is a fight to fundamentally challenge the assumptions that drive our systems of policing, jails, and prisons in America. It’s also a fight against the practice of cash bail, and there are several groups in Madison who have banded together to take that on. The Free The 350 Bail Fund raises money to help people pay their bail in Dane County, and specifically focuses on people of color, in a direct response to the racial and economic disparities in the justice system. The fund is a partnership between several organizations, including Freedom, Inc., the Young Gifted and Black Coalition, the Madison Area Urban Ministry, and the National Lawyers Guild. 

One of the main people running the fund is Jessica Williams, who works as gender justice director for Freedom inc. Williams was trained as a microbiologist and she was pursuing a career in science before she ended up in social-justice work. She has a deep understanding of the pervasive harm that our criminal justice system creates, and of how the movement for prison abolition intersects with decisions that we’re making here and now in Dane County. 


“Prisons don’t rehabilitate people. They don’t end harm, and they don’t stop harm,” Williams says.” “The thing that we push is for our communities to come up with alternatives. How do you hold someone accountable in a way that is going to rehabilitate and actually bring healing to their victims, and what does it mean for us as a society to change and shift in a way that this violence that we see, this violence towards women that we see, stops?”

Williams sat down recently with Tone Madison contributor Henry Solo.

Give the conversation a listen here, or subscribe to the Tone Madison podcast on Apple Podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and consider supporting us financially with a one-time or recurring donation. And please check out our sister podcasts, Record Store Dropouts and Digital Warmth.

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