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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jail N’ Bail Event Captures Funds for Special Olympics

Jail N’ Bail Event Captures Funds for Special Olympics:
Sacred Heart University students and faculty “bond” for cause
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Usually when someone is being arrested, they are not smiling about it. But for dozens of students, faculty members and other staff at Sacred Heart University, they were only too glad to be handcuffed and thrown in jail.

In this case, it was all for a good cause – an all-day “Jail N’ Bail” fundraiser for Special Olympics of Connecticut, held on the university’s campus, 5151 Park Avenue. A range of law enforcement groups were on hand to assist including the Fairfield, Bridgeport, Stratford and Trumbull police departments, the Connecticut State Police and the university’s Public Safety office. 

“This is the second year we’ve held the event,” said Public Safety Officer John Kichinko, who organized the fundraiser. “Last year, we raised about $13,000. Based on that success, we decided to hold it again, with a goal of raising $20,000.”

Kichinko explained how the very creative fundraising process worked. “Basically, anyone can fill out a warrant on someone, for such offenses as messy hair or sleeping too late,” he said. “The warrant is then given to one of our law enforcement partners and they’ll go get the individual wherever they are on campus. If the person is willing – and they all are – they are handcuffed and brought to appear before a judge. In this case, the judges are local attorneys, university administrators and police officials like Bridgeport Deputy Chief Jim Honis. They review the warrant and set a bail amount. The ‘suspect’ is then put in jail.”

The warrant application station, judge’s office, holding cells and bail payment area were all makeshift set-ups located on an outdoor patio next to the campus’ dining facility. This area was abuzz with activity and noise as “arrestees” were led in by officers, judges assessed cases, exchanges took place at the payment and application stations and “prisoners” wailed from their cells.

Kichinko said arrestees were allowed to make phone calls or have visits – whatever they needed to do to raise bail, which ranged from $50 to $250 depending on the arrestee. “The warrant itself is five dollars,” said Kichinko, “which is paid by the issuer of the warrant, who could be a student, faculty, family or people in the community. One-hundred percent of all funds collected go to Special Olympics.”

As Kichinko spoke, Trumbull police officer Brian Weir escorted SHU assistant women’s soccer coach Jorge Pinto, who was handcuffed, to see the judges. Pinto said, “Apparently I braked a little late in my car while traveling to Yale with the team the other day. I’ll definitely drive slower next time when the team’s in the car.”

Every prisoner had their own story to tell about their apparent misbehavior. Student Danielle Belson, 18, said, “I’m in here for being sassy and trespassing. My bail’s been set at $60. I’ve been texting people to come get me out, but no one’s answering me!”

In an adjacent holding cell, student Donald Gill, 18, said, “According to the warrant, my offense was stealing my sexy Brazilian roommate from my friends.”

One of Gill’s friends, a fellow student who helped issue the warrant, was Taylor Filanowski, 18. She said, in her defense, “He was just stealing him for far too long. We just had to do it.”

Gill said his bail was set at $50. “I’ve reached out to my frat brothers and roommate,” he said. “They’ve all come by, but no one has paid to get me out yet.”

Law enforcement wasn’t even immune to the day’s arrest activities, judging by the presence of Public Safety Officers Stephanie Trelli and Kate Frederick behind bars.

“My offense is that I’m the rookie,” smiled Trelli. “I’m fairly new to the department. This is how they pay me back!”

The cries from the jail grew louder – “Bail me out!” “Help me!” and “Get me outta here!” Assistant Coach Pinto even broke into a mournful song: “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows my sorrow…”

Meanwhile, over at the warrant application area, Alex Drexl, 19, was filling out a warrant on her professor. “I don’t want to go to class today,” she said, then added, “It’s all good and for a good cause.”

Processing bail money, Lisa Vane, Regional Director of the Special Olympics of Connecticut Southwest Region, was thrilled that the university was hosting the event. “These funds are much-needed for our athletes,” she said. “We appreciate the enthusiasm of the students, faculty and everyone else that came out on this sunny day to help.”

Standing beside several police command vehicles parked in front of Seton Hall, Fairfield police officer Jay Valle recalled a funny stunt a teacher pulled at last year’s fundraiser. “He gave a surprise quiz to his class and they all flunked, so he had his entire class arrested, which netted about $800 in donations. This is a great event and everyone really gets into it.”