We have SUCCESSFULLY completed our first bail out. Due to the advocacy from Shay's* case manager via letters of support and continued correspondence with her public defender and speaking to the presiding judge at court Shay was granted a PR bond 6/7/19 – meaning nothing had to be paid for her to be released before her next court date, only a signature was needed from her stating she will return to court to avoid going back into custody. The support from the KC Community Bail Fund Project and her case manager was essentially all it took for her bail to be dropped from $5,000 cash/surety to a $5,000 signature (PR) bond. That is why we believe advocacy is instrumental in making this bail fund successful and that it can lead to policy change within the system as a whole.
Following her good day in court, Shay wasn't immediately released and kept in the Johnson County Jail for a hold due to a warrant for minor non-moving traffic violations in Wyandotte County – these violations included not having current insurance on the car she was living in at the time at the age of 19. This hold meant she had to wait in jail until the neighboring county decided to pick her up and place her in their custody or until the warrant was lifted and she could be directly released on house arrest. Our team was able to go to the Wyandotte County Courthouse to pay the bail of $1,005.00 (surety) for Shay to appear in court on 6/25/19. This lifted the warrant and Shay was able to be released from Johnson County Jail and put on house arrest 6/10/19. We had achieved our first goal – and paid a fraction of what was initially being asked in bail to get her released.
Since being released onto house arrest Shay is dedicated to staying out of jail and being successful in moving forward with her life in a positive way and we continue to be impressed by Shay's motivation, initiative, and positive attitude. She has made it to and passed every random court ordered drug test she has been assigned to take, has kept in regular contact with her case manager and her house arrest officer, and most importantly was able to find a job in less than a week from being released - even her house arrest officer was impressed by this and commended her for it. Shay also appeared in court 6/25/19 for the traffic tickets in Wyandotte County – two of the three violations were dropped and since she made it to her court date without a penny of her own on the line, the bond posted by KCCBFP to lift this warrant has since been returned to our revolving fund. This is yet another example contradicting the basis of our money bail system - that the only incentive to return to court is having your own money at stake.
Being out of jail, Shay is able to connect with her family and friends, advocate for herself and her legal rights, learn more about the charges being pressed against her (information which was not explained to her while in jail), and earn money to pay the court fees and the daily house arrest fees she is accruing. She is also able to show the courts that she is being successful while out of jail and that being incarcerated for nearly three months due to the inability to afford her bail was flat out unnecessary. We hope that Shay and others in similar situations assisted through our bail fund will eventually set a precedent in the courtrooms of Greater Kansas City that excessive bond amounts and pretrial detention is in most cases not necessary or beneficial – and that it is in fact better for all parties involved to initiate bail reform and end money bail altogether.
Though we are still supporting and standing by Shay until her case is closed, we are looking ahead and making decisions on how to set up a fair and effective application process and evaluation system for people to be considered to be bailed out through our fund. We do believe that choosing to bail out people who, like Shay, are already involved in case management and/or supportive services will be the smartest and most effective approach as we can rely on their social workers, case managers, advocates, aide, etc. to provide services such as assisting with transportation in getting to and form court appearances/appointments, advocacy in court, assisting with employment searches, etc. This will help those we bail out successfully stay out of jail and make it back to court to get that bail money returned to the fund to help others.
This first goal we have achieved is a big victory not only for KCCBFP, but for Shay. Thanks to the help from other community agencies, donors, advocates, and supporters we were able to make this bailout happen. We hope to be able to release more in-depth details surrounding Shay’s experiences when this case is closed and Shay can feel free to tell her story. We are very optimistic about the future and success of KCCBFP and cannot wait to see what impact a bail fund can have on our community and those victimized by the money bail system.
*Name has been changed for confidentiality purposes.