Advocate and health educator Tremaine Jones is acutely aware of why he does the work that he does. Prior to serving as the project director for the LGBTQ Freedom Fund’s bail out and HIV programs, Jones worked primarily in public health.
“I always knew that the system was messed up and that mass incarceration was a big issue in this country. But when I really got to understand more of the criminal legal system, it just made me realize that the system is meant to fail, and it’s meant to put people in harm’s way,” he said.
This is key to why Jones views mass incarceration as both a public health concern and LGBTQ issue.
Nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQ persons will face incarceration and 1 in 6 transgender people will be sexually assaulted while incarcerated, according to Jones. Statistics like these paired with the fact that most suicides occur in the first week of a person’s incarceration highlight why the LGBTQ Freedom Fund is working to secure the safety and release of LGBTQ-identified people who are in jail and immigration detention.
“I’m Black and I’m queer. So at some point I have a likelihood of getting incarcerated because of who I am,” said Jones. “The fact that systems are in place to entrap people who are like me, and also have very similar experiences that I do, is why it’s really important that we have this conversation.”
The non-profit posts bond for pretrial detention throughout the state of Florida and has done immigration bonds for people who have been detained in over 20 states in the US, some of whom engage in underground economies to make ends meet.
“Many people are being lost in the cracks—especially LGBTQ people, people of color, and poor people—who don’t have access to resources, who are doing things that are considered not ‘legal’ in this country simply because they need to survive,” said Jones.
This is why community bail funds (the Freedom Fund is a part of the National Bail Fund Network) are necessary because they help serve those who might others face violence and abuse while incarcerated.
“We post bond for people at least three times a week. And lately we’ve been posting for at least three to five individuals to get them out of jail or immigration detention,” said Jones, who also added that “if you have the means to give, give your money and resources to LGBTQ organizations, especially Black and Latinx owned LGBTQ organizations, because those organizations are really doing the work.”
Tremaine discusses more about the LGBTQ Freedom Fund’s work, shares his thoughts on police at Pride events, and offers advice for allies and accomplices to the LGBTQ community in the video above. Check it out.