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Elisabeth Epps (left) pictured with Pennie Goodman and Denver City Councilmember Albus Brooks. Photo courtesy of Judy Ollman.

Even in Jail, Criminal Justice Activist Elisabeth Epps Won’t Stop Working for Change

Sentenced to 27 days in jail, this local disruptor is still setting new goals and helping others get bonded out.

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In the grand scheme of a long life, 27 days might seem like a brief moment in time. Or it can feel like more than 2.3 million seconds. Whether you see it as a small or large number—or something in between—that’s the amount of time that Elisabeth Epps of Colorado Freedom Fund, an organization focused on ending the cash bail system, was sentenced to spend in jail on January 24. Epps, one of 15 “Disrupters” featured in our January issue, spent years fighting the sentence.

Epps won’t spend every minute of those 27 days in jail: Her sentence includes work release, meaning that she can continue bonding out people held in local jails during the day before returning to jail herself each night.

She’s still active on social media, posting regular updates, like these, on the Colorado Freedom Fund:

https://twitter.com/elisabeth/status/1092483075441750018

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She’s also detailing her experience, including updates on requests for art supplies to make vision boards with women in jail (denied) to not having access to tampons when she needed them. (Faith Winter, another Disrupter, and Leslie Herod, whom I profiled in the February issue, co-sponsored an amendment to the budget two years ago to give free access to tampons in state prisons; they are now working to extend that to jails).

Undoubtedly, Epps’ sentencing has drawn attention to her efforts to abolish the cash bond system: Denverite has closely followed her appeals process, Essence posted an article on her work, and Questlove tweeted out a link to an Aurora Sentinel piece about her sentencing.

In an interview the night before her sentencing, Epps spoke about preparing for jail (“It’s so much scarier than I anticipated,” she said.) and making sure that the Fund would continue bonding people out regardless of the outcome in her case. She also spoke about criminal justice reform and how this experience has helped her understand why the work she does feels so urgent, especially when she’s answering a call from someone who needs help getting out of jail.“[Its] empathy on a different level,” Epps said. Which might help explain why, after her sentencing, she set a new goal for the Fund: Bonding out 27 people for each day of her sentence.

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