For more than 40 years, Sister Sue Kintzele – a sister of the Holy Cross in South Bend, Indiana – has visited the county jail. As the last remaining overseer of a bail bond fund, Sister Sue helps low-income individuals post bail, so they can continue working while they await trial. She does this work voluntarily, because, she says, “the people that are there are people…and they need the same things that all of us need.”
By her estimates, Sister Sue has handled over 2,000 bond cases. And she has no intention of slowing down.
For Kind World, we spoke with Sister Sue and her colleague Maria Kaczmarek about what drives their work with the incarcerated.
SR. SUE KINTZELE: Once you hear prison and jail, you think “someone bad.” You think of someone bad, right? But we’ve all done bad things. Wrong things. Right? You just maybe haven’t been caught. The people that are there are people. That’s the first thing. And they need the same things that all of us need.
MARIA KACZMAREK: People don’t always reach out to people who have broken the law, and I think it takes a special person and a special quality. Her name is by the pay phone…her phone number. Everybody, you know, when you say, “Sister Sue,” in certain areas of the city, they know who she is. You know, Sister Sue has been known to actually protest and actually be arrested and carted off to the county jail, you know, during a sit in. And people would bond her out, and she would be so mad because, she said, “I don’t want you to bond me out. I’m trying to, you know, make people aware that this is not right.”
KINTZELE: The main reason most people are in jail is because they don’t have the money to get out. If you or I were there someone would be there right away with the money, but most people are there because they don’t have the money.
KACZMAREK: You know, $500 is a lot of money. Families contact her to help with the bail. They may be able to scrape together $250, and that’s their commitment, and then she can, you know, match that. They can actually, you know, post bond and continue working until their case is resolved.
KINTZELE: I probably have about $15,000 in the fund. So, sometimes I can tell ’em right away how much I can help with. If it’s been the breadwinner, probably will or has lost his job. You know, what are they gonna do? Talk to a mother who has two teenage girls who are living at home, going to school. They’re there by themselves. How are they gonna pay the rent?
So, I see close to 10 people a week. Then I just go through my questions: Your name, your address, your phone number. Who do you live with? What’s the charge? How long you been here? What’s the bond? Have you ever been arrested before?
To be honest, there are very few that I would refuse to do some kind of help. I think everyone deserves a chance.
KACZMAREK: People who have been incarcerated or in jail probably have had many failures in life, and often many people weren’t there for them. When you talk with her, she doesn’t say, “Oh, you know, that’s horrible!,” she just listens. And I think that’s the thing is that she sees community. She sees them as being part of her community.
KINTZELE: I mean, people will come up to me and say, “Oh, you’ve helped me, you know, 10 years ago, 15 years ago.” I say, “Oh, okay, um, you know, and how are you doin’ now?” I don’t remember what they were there for, that’s not what’s important. What’s important is what you’re doin’ now.
Kind World is a project of the WBUR iLab, sharing stories of the profound effect that one act can have on our lives. Kind World is produced by Zack Ezor, Lisa Tobin and Nate Goldman.