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“It’s basically a death sentence.” Online concert series looks to raise money to get people out of jail


This Saturday the “Free The 350 Bail Fund” will host its first of five online concerts as part of a fundraising series to raise money to release residents incarcerated in the Dane County jail system during the global health crisis. 

“It’s basically a death sentence that elected officials are serving by leaving people in jail during a pandemic,” Hip hop Artist and Organizer Liam “Lil Guillotine” Manjon said.

The Free The 350 Bail fund prioritizes bailing out Black people incarcerated in the Dane County jail system. As a coalition of local progressive organizations, Free The 350 also seeks to end prison and jail systems. 

“We also know that Black people and Indigenous people and people of color are affected disproportionately during the pandemic,” Manjon said.

These organizations include Freedom Inc, Young Gifted and Black, Madison General Defense Committee of the IWW, Madison Area Urban Ministry, Sankofa Behavioral Community Health, Operation Welcome Home, LGBT Books To Prisoners, National Lawyers Guild, and Racial Justice Tipping Point. 

Manjon said that Freedom Inc. will host a private meeting for the coalition today to discuss ways for individual community members to get involved.

“I have been organizing against the expansion of the Dane County Jail since 2015 with a group called No New Jails, and Derailed after that,” Manjon said.

He said concerts for the community-run bail fund began around 2016. Manjon also said the coalition has bailed out six people so far in April but hopes to bail out more. He also said the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that 100,000 people could die in prisons and jails due to how easy it is for the virus to spread among folks in there and subsequently everybody in the community.

Of the 442 people in the Dane County jail as of Thursday, 18 have tested positive for COVID19, with more tests pending. Three inmates who tested positive have been release, Sheriff’s Office officials said Thursday.

“The way that the jails and sheriff have been dealing with coronavirus is locking people up in solitary confinement because social distancing is impossible. So the best they can do is solitary confinement which is also a human rights violation,” Manjon said.

Connecticut-based international hip hop artists Ceschi Ramos will be headlining the Saturday, May 2 concert at 7 p.m. In 2014, Ceschi won the Connecticut Music Award for Best Hip Hop and released his seventh studio album Bring Us the Head of Francisco False (Fake Four Inc., 2020) this year.

Madison-based alternative rock & pop artist President Long Boi will also make an appearance. Manjon, who is also performing as Lil Guillotine hopes this concert will raise awareness of issues that exist within the prison industrial complex. 

He also said the prison and jail system is a tool of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. Manjon explained that allowing residents to remain in jail during the pandemic violates their 8th Amendment right to protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

“I think anti-racism goes beyond recognizing the racism that exists in the institution and society and actively works against it and fights against it,” he said.

The concerts will be held online for the next five Saturdays, at 7 p.m. CST. Manjon said those interested in learning more about Free the 350 or donating to the community bail fund should visit https://freethe350bailfund.wordpress.com/.