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'Prison abolition' activists bail out 20 in less than a year; not all stay out of trouble
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'Prison abolition' activists bail out 20 in less than a year; not all stay out of trouble

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Dane County Jail

Most of those bailed out of the Dane County Jail since last summer by two people associated with a local crowdfunded “community effort to free Black people” have steered clear of further criminal charges, arrests or violations of their bail conditions.

Protesters chant 'free 'em all' outside the Dane County Jail in August.

But some haven’t, including one man charged with beating up a woman and threatening another with a gun, and one who allegedly used a gun to rob a man and steal the car he was driving.

Since July of last year, Liam and Rose Manjon, of Madison, have put up a total of more than $220,000 to make bail for 20 people, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Seventeen of them are Black. Charges against the defendants range from murder and other violent crimes to nothing, perhaps as a result of a person being arrested, bailed out but never formally charged.

Once freed, five of the 20 were accused of committing new crimes or missing court dates, usually in violation of their release.

The Manjons did not respond to requests for comment from the Wisconsin State Journal. Liam Manjon appears to be the main contact at the Free the 350 Bail Fund, according to the group’s social media pages and online fundraising accounts.

The group has been in existence since at least the fall of 2017, when its Facebook and Twitter profiles were created. It “aims to directly undermine modern day slavery disguised as the so-called justice system,” according to its website, and says “prison abolition is the ultimate goal.”

It lists among its members some prominent local social justice and social service organizations that have helped shape Madison and Dane County policy and garnered millions in taxpayer funding over the years, including JustDane, formerly known as Madison-Area Urban Ministry, and Freedom Inc.

The United States’ bail system requires people charged with more serious crimes to post money to get out of jail as their cases make their way through the justice system. If they show up for court dates and abide by the terms of their release — such as by not committing further crimes — they get their money back. If not, the money stays with the court system.

The purpose of bail isn’t to keep people in jail to prevent them from committing future crimes — that would be unconstitutional — but to create a financial incentive for people to show up for their court dates and stay out of trouble. But some activists contend it is unfair to the poor and people of color, who tend to have fewer resources than whites.

In July of last year, the Manjons put up $33,500 to bail out Tywaun K. Reynolds, 21, of Madison, and Dorian L. Watkins, 20, of Middleton, and $100,000 to bail out murder defendant Kenyairra Gadson, 23, of Madison, according to a press release issued at the time by the Sheriff’s Office, which identified them as “suspects in gun violence.”

Gadson has not been charged with any new crimes, according to online court records, but Reynolds and Watkins have.

According to a criminal complaint filed Friday, Reynolds pulled a gun on a man in a gas station parking lot on Madison’s Far West Side on March 10, stealing some $15,000 in cash and taking his car, which itself had been previously reported stolen. He faces 17 felony and two misdemeanor counts in the case, including for armed robbery and possession of a firearm by an adjudicated delinquent. Ten of the felony counts are for violating the conditions of his bail. Reynolds has six open felony cases in Wisconsin, according to online court records.

Tywaun Reynolds


In three cases filed Jan. 12 and March 8, Watkins is accused of pulling a gun on an acquaintance on Feb. 15, beating up a woman on Sept. 12, and fleeing police executing a warrant at a Madison apartment on March 4. He faces 12 felony and four misdemeanor charges in the cases. Eleven of the felony charges are for violating the conditions of his bail. Watkins has 11 open felony cases in Wisconsin, according to online court records. Free the 350 posted bail for him again on Aug. 28.

Dorian Watkins


Free the 350 criticized Sheriff Dave Mahoney’s July 6 press release as “filled with lies and misrepresentations” and labeled Mahoney a “racist.” His office has not put out any further such press releases about the group’s work, and Mahoney declined to comment for this story.

Among the others released through the efforts of Free the 350 is Jeremy Ryan, 32, a longtime Madison protester also known as “Segway Jeremy” who is white and who in January 2020 pleaded guilty in federal court to trying to buy a radioactive substance on the “dark web.” In June, he was charged with two felonies for allegedly making terrorist threats and stalking Mahoney. He was bailed out on Sept. 11 and in January 2021 cited for failing to comply with the directions of a federal officer in the state of Oregon, where he now lives.

Jeremy Ryan


Also among the others:

  • Kobe Beason, 20, bailed out on Jan. 29 seven weeks after he was charged with felony second-degree recklessly endangering safety, intimidating a victim/domestic abuse and false imprisonment and four misdemeanors. He is now wanted on an unspecified violation of the terms of his release.
  • Joseph Lenoir, 21, bailed out Jan. 30, currently wanted and facing multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including for possession of narcotics and multiple domestic-abuse related charges.
  • Lucas Thompson, 37, bailed out Oct. 20, currently wanted on charges filed Jan. 15 for felony strangulation and suffocation and misdemeanor disorderly conduct and battery.

Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sheriff’s Office has sought to keep the jail population low to prevent the virus’ spread. The 1,013-capacity facility has dropped from an average daily population of 718 in 2019 to 535 last year.

Editor's note: This story was updated on April 6, 2021, to say Ryan was not on federal supervision at the time he was cited in January 2021.


Free the 350 Bail Fund "aims to directly undermine modern day slavery disguised as the so-called justice system," according to its website.


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