About Us


WE ARE the premier advocacy organization committed to reforming the criminal legal system in Montgomery County

Origin Story

The Reuniting Family Bail Fund was created in response to the illegal practice of Montgomery County Magisterial District Judges assigning cash bail to defendants without representation. Then Chief Public Defender Dean Beer and his team filed an amicus brief with Philadelphia that the practice was unconstitutional. In response, Montgomery County Commissioners Valerie Arkoosh (Chair), Kenneth Lawrence (Vice Chair), and Joe Gale unanimously and without public comment terminated Dean Beer and Deputy Chief Keshia Hudson Brooks.

However, our group’s origin is rooted in the grassroots organizing model, Participatory Defense, where we support and empower families fighting criminal cases. Participatory Defense started with our friends and founders of DeBug, San Jose, California, as a response to the police brutality that members of their community were experiencing. Family and community members started sharing their stories and experiences about the criminal legal system. They realized they were stronger together, and the collective knowledge gave them power within a system designed to shame, isolate, and punish. As they strategically and intentionally organized attendance at loved ones’ court hearings, opportunities for better outcomes emerged. Justice was finally something they believed in and understood it was worth fighting for.

The Participatory Defense Montco Hub has been organizing and supporting families since 2015. It is the first “Hub” outside of California and is part of the national training team.

Our Team


Heather Lewis

As a nonprofit professional with a master’s degree in human services, Heather Lewis has been committed to the needs of vulnerable individuals and families in Montgomery County, PA, for nearly 20 years. Heather is the Executive Director of the Reuniting Family Bail Fund, a practitioner of Participatory Defense, and a National Participatory Defense Trainer. With a team of directly impacted volunteers standing in the gap as Court Watchers and Participatory Defense practitioners, the RFBF has helped hundreds of families navigate the criminal legal system, challenged illegal bail practices, and engaged the community in sharing their collective knowledge.
Not to mention the freeing of vulnerable populations, including poor people, people of color, people with substance abuse disorders, and people with a mental health crisis, from pre-trial incarceration.

Board of Directors

The intentionality of a diverse Board of Directors is critical to our mission. We are on a mission to stop the criminalization of health issues such as substance abuse disorder and mental health crises and to end the mass incarceration and pretrial detention of people of color and other marginalized communities.


See the impact made by the Reuniting Family Bail Fund since 2020