Author: Heart of Illinois ABC

The Bail Project / Articles posted by SLSoper (Page 3)

As conversations around re-enfranchising formerly incarcerated people grow, a look at the disenfranchisement of people detained pretrial and people serving jail or prison sentences. A proposed bill in Illinois would require counties to provide mail-in or on-site voting opportunities for people in jail pretrial: “It’s about making sure that the rights we have are real.”

Summarized by Lillian Kalish


If you had $14 billion dollars a year to invest in solutions to our most pressing social problems, what would you do?

As we bail people out day after day and connect them to voluntary services and programs, we can’t help but imagine the number of health centers, jobs programs, affordable housing units, daycare providers, and more that could be funded with this sum. It would surely go a long way towards breaking the cycle of poverty and criminalization that traps so many Americans in the revolving door of mass incarceration.

But the sad reality is that every year, federal, state, and city governments in the United States spend $14 billion tax dollars jailing people before trial. That’s nearly $40 million a day.

And that figure doesn’t even begin to capture the full economic impact. Including the estimated collateral costs in lost wages, foster care, court costs, etc., researchers have put the total annual cost of pretrial detention at $140 billion.

These lost dollars ripple across entire families and communities, disproportionately draining resources from low-income communities of color and falling particularly hard on women.

Budgets should be about where our priorities lie. And, as a recent Pew poll shows, Americans overwhelmingly support alternatives to pretrial detention, not more incarceration.

As we take our model of community release with support across the country, we seek to demonstrate what the alternative could look like, one that is more humane, equitable, and cost-effective.

The New York Times reported that a glitch that prevented East Baton Rouge Parish’s jury database from updating properly left over 150,000 people off the jury rolls: “Across the country, computer-reliant jury coordinators have for years confronted database problems that kept otherwise-eligible potential jurors from being called to the nation’s courthouses…Such systemic exclusions raise constitutional concerns and threaten the integrity of the jury system, legal experts said.” The Times provides a look into the legal, constitutional, and ethical questions that arise when algorithms or other technical systems malfunction, leading to real-life consequences for people (as always, experienced along the lines of race, class, gender, and more).

This article in The Appeal looks at how the cash bail system and bail bond industry preys on women not only as defendants, but also as the demographic most likely to be paying someone’s bail: “[A] vast population of women, largely invisible in public discussions of bail reform, is brought into the system through the co-signing process. Handing over hundreds or thousands of dollars, these women may drain their savings or go into debt.” And our partner, The Audacious Project, covered how women are the “hidden victims” of the cash bail crisis.

Summarized by Lillian Kalish

The Marshall Project covered how misleading the “violent/nonviolent” distinction is, and how prosecutors use the process of “up-charging” (i.e. charging people for more “serious” crimes, such as charging the act of getting into a bar fight as “assault with intent to kill”) to force guilty pleas. Resisting the “violent/nonviolent” distinction is particularly relevant to bail reform given that many proposed reforms, including those passed in New York last week, eliminate cash bail for people accused only of “nonviolent” crimes.

Summarized by Lillian Kalish

Instead, the state relies on pretrial algorithms to determine detention decisions. Their conclusion is that the reforms are working: the state’s jail population dropped by 44 percent; failure-to-appear, recidivism, and “violent” crime did not significantly increase. However, racial disparities have not decreased significantly. While lawmakers are touting the program as a success, it is still facing an “impending funding crisis. You can find the full report here.

Summarized by Jacob Koffler

At least 70 percent of these people were awaiting trialThese jail deaths are preventable, too, as the leading cause of death is suicide. A patchwork of reporting systems has left jail deaths underreported and jail administrators unaccountable. Additionally, it’s getting worse: over the past 10 years, jail deaths have consistently increased in Oregon and Washington. 

Summarized by Jacob Koffler

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.