This winter, our Tulsa team met Geanell, a young woman who had been in pretrial detention for nearly a week because she couldn’t afford a $2,500 bail.
By the time we interviewed her at the jail, she had suffered anaphylactic shock, likely as a result of stress, and lost two leads for affordable housing. Her husband was about to sell most of their possessions to buy her freedom. Luckily, we were able to post Geanell’s bail and she was reunited with her children and partner while her case was pending.
When Geanell met Michelle from our Tulsa team, she immediately felt like someone was looking out for her. Together they worked to stay on top of court dates, coordinate rides to court, and connect with programs that could help Geanell’s family find a permanent home.
“[Michelle] was there to guide me,” Geanell recalls. “If I didn’t have her or my husband, I’d be in a really different situation.”
Then, a few weeks ago, Geanell received great news: her case had been dismissed. Freedom gave her a fighting chance in court and this chance made all the difference.
“It doesn’t always have to be family,” Geanell said, reflecting on her experience, “but you need someone in your support system.”
Geanell is one of over 200 women in Tulsa that our local team has bailed out and supported since our launch last year, when we decided to focus our Tulsa operations on adapting The Bail Project’s model of community release with support to the unique needs of women in this community.
Women are the fastest growing incarcerated population in the United States, and are disproportionately impacted by cash bail: Black women who cannot afford bail have a median yearly income lower than the average national bail amount. The overwhelming majority of women in jails are mothers, and most are the primary caregivers for their children.
In few places is the increase in women’s incarceration more apparent than in Tulsa, where the number of women in the local jail has grown 3,400 percent from 1970 to today.
Securing adequate support systems in Tulsa is a significant challenge. One in five residents lives below the poverty line and repeated cuts to public services, including healthcare and housing, combined with mass incarceration, have exacerbated an already crushing meth epidemic.
But we can’t afford not to intervene. Working in partnership with the Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office, Still She Rises and other community partners, we are extending a lifeline to the woman of Tulsa and reimagining a pretrial system that addresses their needs and protects their dignity.