Updated: May 16, 2019
According to the Pretrial Justice Institute, six out of 10 people – which amounts to nearly half a million people in local jails in the US are awaiting trial, most due to not being able to afford bail. This means they are presumed innocent according to the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. To keep these people detained pretrial it costs over $14 billion per year. The outrageous number of people in pretrial detention is in large part due to the current bail system in the United States – money bail.
What is Money Bail?
The initial premise of money bail was to hold people accountable for showing up to their court dates and complying with pretrial conditions due to having their own money at stake. However, due to the large number of people arrested for various charges - some as little as traffic violations or misdemeanors not being able to afford bail, they must resort to paying a nonrefundable 10% of their bail down to a bail bond company. This option is only available to those who can afford that 10% or have a loved one who can not only afford the 10% but also be eligible to co-sign on the person in jail’s behalf. This leaves impoverished, homeless, and marginalized populations (the largest percentage being African Americans) sitting in jail with the presumption of innocence awaiting trail. Pretrial detention more often than not results in a guilty plea deal just because the inmate is ready to get out of jail and reintegrate into society.
What is a Bail Fund?
Bail funds have been popping up in various cities across the country and are revolving funds reliant on donations from the community. These funds are used to bail out individuals in pretrial detention and provide supportive services to those released to ensure the individual follows up with court dates and is in compliance with any pretrial conditions while also connecting the individual to community resources for housing, employment, mental health services, substance abuse counseling, among others.
The percentage of positive outcomes of people who are released pre-trial vs. those who are detained until their court date are staggering. Once the accused is released pre-trial they have the opportunity to self-advocate, connect with social services, reconnect with family and social supports, seek legal advice, resume school or training programs, and gain employment that may have been lost due to incarceration.
A noteworthy bail fund in the country is the Chicago Community Bond Fund, who according to their website has paid $1,189,995 to free 223 people from pre-trial detention in Cook County since 2015. Another successful bail fund is The Bronx Freedom Fund which stemmed from the public defender office. They bailed out over 600 people between 2007 and 2016. Of these people bailed out, 96% returned for their court dates despite not having their own money at stake, testing the premise of the archaic money bail system. Additionally, of these 600 people bailed out 55% had their cases dismissed entirely.
How Can the Kansas City Bail Fund Project be Successful?
Our plan is to start small and raise money through grassroots fundraising. We plan to begin partnering with local businesses, attorneys, public defenders, local social service agencies and organizations, mental and behavioral health care providers, and community members to fundraise and advocate for the need for such fund in this city with such great potential. Members involved in getting this fund started are already connected with dozens of community service agencies and organizations and are able to use those connections to assist individuals we intend to bail out through this fund.
Our mission is to give those who cannot afford bail a fighting chance at getting a positive outcome in their case rather than plead out just to get out of jail after sitting there so long waiting for their day in court. We want those detained pre-trial to be given a chance to keep their jobs, their spot in school, their housing, provide care for their children, and to be productive members of society rather than sitting in local or county jail costing the taxpayers and themselves money they most likely do not have.
A main focus of advocacy for this proposed bail fund will be for key policy change to end cash bail, pretrial detention, and for the integration stringent needs assessments which take into account financial, situational, among other factors of the accused life when courts are setting bail.
Who Will We Serve?
By starting small, we will focus on assisting individuals who are already connected to supportive services in the community or who are receiving case management through an agency or organization to ensure they are getting the support needed to make it to and from their court dates and/or trials. Having these services already in place would help the individual not only in court but in obtaining employment, counseling, transportation, housing, among a multitude of other aspects which could contribute to their success pre and post trial. We also want to focus on serving primarily African Americans (who are twice as likely to both get arrested and be detained pretrial), people experiencing homelessness, and young adults ages 18-26 due to the overwhelming number of those populations held in pretrial detention.
How Can You Help?
If you have any questions/inquiries or are interested in donating to the fund, getting involved in advocacy, or assist in fundraising for this seedling of the project and support the Kansas City Community Bail Fund Project please contact us at KCCBFP@gmail.com . You can also reach out to learn about our who we have identified as the first to be bailed out through this fund.
Visit These Links for More Info on Other Bail Funds and Bail Reform!