Ending cash bail is one of the defining civil rights and racial justice issues of our day, particularly in the South. So, we are doubling down.

BAIL OUT the SOUTH, with a focus on the Deep South, will double The Bail Project’s reach in the southern United States. When ranked by states, seven of the ten states with the highest incarceration rates in the U.S. are in the South. Black Americans bear the brunt of this crisis. Nearly half of all Black Americans jailed in the U.S. are in southern jails. Cash bail is a key driver of this injustice. Our mission is to end it.

At its heart, the cash bail crisis is a human story. It costs us all.

It costs us all.

↓ Bail feeds racial disparities.

Pretrial detention stacks the odds against any person accused of a crime, but it especially hurts people of color. Since people of color are held on bail at higher rates, and those that are held pretrial are more likely to plead guilty, bail has a compounding effect on people of color and their presence in the prison-industrial complex.

↓ Bail fuels economic inequity.

The median bail in the U.S. is $10,000, representing eight months of income for the typical person held in jail before trial. Bail compounds issues of poverty by increasing the likelihood one will be detained pretrial, which in turn makes it more likely that the incarcerated person will end up with a criminal record. Having a criminal record makes it harder, if not impossible, to find suitable employment, get advanced education, secure public housing, and gain access to numerous other opportunities and benefits that mean the difference between a lifetime in poverty and one with economic mobility. The Pew Charitable Trusts has estimated that a person who was formerly incarcerated will earn $179,000 less by age 48 than their counterpart.

↓ Bail fails to meet its purpose.

Bail was never designed to keep people incarcerated, yet local jurisdictions spend more than $38 million each day simply to detain people presumed innocent who are waiting for their day in court. That money could be used for schools, hospitals, mental health services, and other social needs.

↓ Bail drives the incarceration epidemic.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that bail is ineffective, its use continues at an alarming scale. Between 1997 and 2017, pretrial detention was responsible for nearly all the net growth in America’s jail population. The South is ground zero for the devastating impact of mass incarceration on Black Americans. Of all Black Americans in jail, nearly half are in southern jails. Predatory systems of fines and fees rendered by the criminal legal system exacerbate the damage caused by high rates of incarceration. Southern states impose a total of 625 different fines and fees on their residents—more than any other region—and these are in addition to the fines and fees levied by counties, parishes, and municipalities. These fines function as a regressive tax used to generate revenue, and often keep people with criminal justice involvement in debt. Failure to pay these fines can lead to incarceration.

We can do something about it.

Since 2018, The Bail Project has mounted a strategic attack on cash bail, one of the linchpins of mass incarceration and systemic racism. Thanks to your support, The Bail Project is in more than two dozen cities across the U.S., paying people’s bail and providing Community Release with Support while working at the policy level to end this indefensible practice. We are now embarking on a campaign to double our efforts in the South, where the harmful effects of cash bail and pretrial detention are the most acute.