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The Bail Project / Newsroom

Indianapolis Business Journal highlights our work in the city.

“I don’t think people understand the impact even a few days in jail has on a human life and their entire family. They can lose everything: their home, their children, their job. It’s so difficult to get back on the right track.” -Devi Davis, our bail disruptor in Indianapolis.

Since launching in June 2018, the Bail Project in Detroit has bailed out almost 200 people, including 72 fathers. On June 15, this past Father’s Day, the Bail Project and Detroit Justice Center hosted a celebration with fathers who likely would have been incarcerated that day had they not received help posting bond.

Reflecting on her work, bail disruptor Asia Johnson said, “When I see clients like Chris and Abigail, I know that it is worth the fight. … The fact that they are here today and he’s celebrating being a father and I got to bring him back home to his family. It just means the world to me.”

When 19-year-old Daehaun White was released from jail in St. Louis, he was so overjoyed that he forgot to check in with a representative for the company EMASS, which straps black boxes with GPS monitoring onto the ankles of people on pretrial release.

Soon, White’s arrest on minor charges spiraled into a debt exceeding $800, all owed to a company that charges defendants $10 a day plus other excessive fees. The county offers defendants no hearing to determine whether they can pay fees for such onerous surveillance.

A study released by the Center for Court Innovation last week offers further proof that pretrial risk-assessments tools⁠—which some states have turned to in place of cash bail⁠—assign higher risk scores to Black people compared to white, meaning the former are more likely to remain incarcerated where risk assessments are used.

While others have made similar observations, the study adds value to the discussion because it suggests this kind of racism is intrinsic to the risk assessment model by design, and not particular to just one or a handful of assessments.

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.