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Author: Lillian Kalish & Jacob Koffler

The Bail Project / Articles posted by SLSoper

In the wee hours of June 28, 1969, police raided The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located in New York City’s Greenwich Village. It was not the first, or the last, police raid targeting gay and trans people in the city, but what happened next lit the spark for the modern queer liberation movement.

For two days people fought back. Among them, on the front lines, were two trans activists, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, who would help turn this moment into a movement.

Throughout their lives, Rivera and Johnson were targeted and arrested many times. Rivera recalls, “I don’t know how many times my grandmother had to come and bail me out of jail.  She was there. She always came, bailed me out.”

This criminalization continues to this day. As many queer and trans organizers remind us, Stonewall is now:

  • High rates of poverty leave transgender people, particularly Black trans people, disproportionately targeted by unaffordable cash bail. Trans people of all races are twice as likely as cis people to live in poverty, and Black trans people are almost three times at risk.
  • Employment discrimination often pushes trans people out of the traditional workforce and into other fields, such as sex work, which is highly criminalized. Without economic stability, trans people also experience housing insecurity – 1 in 5 trans people have experienced homelessness and 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+ – putting queer and trans people at high risk of criminalization.
  • Once incarcerated, queer and trans people face a greater risk of violence and are disproportionately subject to solitary confinement. The recent high-profile death of Layleen Polanco, a 27-year-old Afro-Latina trans woman who died at Rikers Island while being held in solitary confinement for over two weeks on a $500 bail, has brought renewed attention to this crisis.
  • 85% of queer and trans incarcerated people have been in solitary confinement at some point, according to a 2014 survey from Black and Pink. Queer and trans people are also six times more likely to be sexually assaulted while incarcerated than the general jail and prison population.
  • Trans and gay asylum seekers are at a higher risk of violence – even once they are in the U.S. In May 2018 Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman who fled violence and discrimination in Honduras, died in ICE custody due to inadequate health care. Her death underscores how much trans immigrants are exposed  to violence and denied equal care in detention centers.

 

What you can do:

 

50 years ago today, an unstoppable movement for the rights of LGBTQ+ people and communities began. The Stonewall Riots were about more than just a single police raid: they were about ensuring that queer communities could be free to live their lives without fear of criminalization and violence. That struggle continues to this day — and it implicates all of us.

In solidarity,

The Bail Project Team

Image above: Marsha P. Johnson (left) and Sylvia Rivera march in New York City in 1973.

Greetings from Louisville, Kentucky. Last month, we marked one year since the launch of our Bail Project site in the Derby City and what a journey it has been!

To date, we have paid bail for over 900 Louisvillians, reuniting families, restoring the presumption of innocence, and helping our city fight mass incarceration. We’re now gearing up for our second year. We’ll be kicking things off by marching with the Presbyterian Church (USA) this week to call for bail reform.

A few weeks ago, I caught up with our very first client, Mr. Thomas Gibbs. Mr. Gibbs is a retiree and grandfather who spent several days in jail without his medications because he could not afford an $800 bail.

Here’s Mr. Gibbs a year later, celebrating with me our power “to move mountains” when we come together as a community to demand justice and true freedom.

One year later, I continue to be inspired by clients like Mr. Gibbs and the overwhelming community support we have received. From our amazing partners at the Louisville Metro Public Defenders to the Louisville chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice (LSURJ) and the Presbyterian Church (USA), there’s a strong community behind this movement in Kentucky. Together, we are paving the way for real, long-lasting change.

Freedom should truly be free. This idea is nothing new, but here, in Louisville, we are revolutionizing how we get there, together.

Thank you for your support,

Shameka Parrish-Wright
Louisville Site Manager

A key part of supporting people after their bail is posted is identifying the best way to keep them notified about their future court dates. Research (and our own experiences) shows that effective text reminders are usually enough, but what do you do when a person is homeless and doesn’t have a phone?

You get creative.

This past winter, Sabrina, a bail disruptor with our Spokane team, met Annabelle*, a young woman who had spent two weeks incarcerated pretrial because she couldn’t afford bail.

Annabelle shared with Sabrina that she had been homeless for the past three years and did not have a cellphone at the moment. What she had, though, was a small community of friends, including a local grocer near the spot where she would camp.

So Sabrina got to work. She contacted the grocer and he agreed to be a contact for Annabelle during her case and let her borrow a phone if needed. Sabrina also connected Annabelle with Consistent Care, one of our partner organizations in Spokane, which provided her with a phone, drug treatment, and transitional housing within two days of her release. Thanks to this support, Annabelle found a safe place to stay and is now in a position to work with her public defender and fight her case from a place of freedom.

Sabrina says that a strong network of partner organizations in Spokane has made our work possible in her city, where the majority of our clients face chronic homelessness and drug addiction.

In fact, every two weeks, a group called Hot Spotters – comprised of different organizations from public defenders, to mental health providers, to EMTs – meet to figure out how to best pool their resources.

“It’s really beautiful to see that many agencies come together to help people with wraparound services,” Sabrina said.

We couldn’t agree more. Partnerships are the foundation of our model of community release with support our vision of a pretrial justice system that preserves the presumption of innocence and responds to people’s needs with respect and dignity. It’s an honor to be working toward this vision alongside so many dedicated advocates in Spokane.

To learn more about our work in Spokane, listen to Sabrina’s interview on Spokane Public Radio.

*Annabelle is a pseudonym used to protect our client’s privacy.

USA TODAY published the largest collection of police misconduct records to date, which are often shrouded in secrecy. They found at least 200,000 incidents of alleged misconduct, most of which were previously unreported, including 3,145 allegations of rape, child molestation, and other sexual misconduct, 2,307 cases of domestic violence by officers, and 22,924 cases of officers using excessive force.

Summarized by Lillian Kalish

Sentencing Project’s analysis of the newly-released Dept. of Justice figures reveals that at the current rate of decline, it will take 75 years to cut the prison population by 50 percent. While the prison and jail population has declined by 7.3 percent by the end of 2017, compared to its peak in 2009, these declines are “heavily influenced by a handful of states that have reduced their populations by 30% or more in recent years,” most notably Alaska, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont.

More than half of states are still experiencing an increase or single-digit decrease in their jail and prison populations. Vera also released their annual prison population report, which advocates feel is more accurate, as the federal reports “are increasingly outdated,” due in part to budget cuts.

Summarized by Jacob Koffler

Due to “sweeping changes to California’s justice system” intended to ease prison overcrowding. And it has – but it’s shifted the overcrowding crisis onto jails, which were built to hold people for a short period of time, and which now struggle to handle incarcerated people with chronic medical and mental-health problems. Deaths in California jails have jumped by 26 percent since they started receiving long-term prisoners. 

Summarized by Lillian Kalish

Two jails in Missouri have prohibited all in-person visits and replaced them with a video platform provided by CIDNET, a private company that “specializes in prison telecommunications”; video calling cost people calling from their homes 40 cents a minute. And while video calls have been touted as financially beneficial for families, when the costs of visiting are taken into account, “the technology is increasingly used as a justification to eliminate in-person visits,” with 74 percent of jails that adopted video visitation subsequently banning in-person visits.

Summarized by Lillian Kalish