How To Make A Difference When It Feels Impossible - The Bail Project Skip to main content

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Cash bail was originally intended to encourage people to return to court. The idea – if you are arrested, you or your loved ones can pay bail, and you’re released. When you return to court, the money is returned to you. The U.S. Constitution even prohibits “excessive bail” to prevent it from being misused. But, along the way, cash bail became a tool to punish the innocent before trial. Today judges routinely set bail amounts that exceed what most people can afford.

Excessive bail forces people to stay in jail while they await trial – sometimes held for weeks, months, or even years even though they’ve not been convicted of anything. Today, nearly half a million people sit behind bars daily, many because they don’t have the money to go home. It’s also costly: American taxpayers spend over $14 billion dollars a year incarcerating people pretrial.

So, how do you combat a system like cash bail when it feels impossible? How can one person make a difference?

You’ve probably heard our origin story. How The Bail Project’s founder, Robin Steinberg, started The Bail Project after working for decades as a public defender and seeing firsthand how cash bail fueled mass incarceration and racial and economic disparities in the criminal justice system. Robin wanted to grow The Bronx Freedom Fund, a small community bail fund that she had started with her husband, into a national organization that could help thousands of people every year, end cash bail, and ultimately transform the justice system for generations to come. That seemingly unreachable dream that began in 2017 turned into The Bail Project you know today. But we didn’t get here overnight. It took thousands of individual supporters to help make this dream possible.

Using donations, The Bail Project provides free bail assistance to thousands of low-income people annually. Through our Community Release with Support model, we provide court notifications, free transportation to court, and help our clients navigate voluntary supportive services like substance use recovery and housing based on their needs. Your donation helps real people in real-time. It can help people like Henry to finally get the mental health care he needed. It can help people like Marcella to have reliable transportation to her court dates. Without your help, our clients could have spent months or years in jail on charges that would later be dropped.

But the great thing about our model is that your support directly helps Bail Project clients across the country, and supports our work to combat this two-tier system of justice through real policy change.

With your help, we’re leveraging data and human stories to advocate for holistic pretrial system reforms that reduce reliance on bail at the local, state, and federal levels.

And the results of your support are proof that our model is working. Our data from thousands of bailouts across the country is indisputable: Bail is not what makes people return to court. Our clients return to over 90% of their court dates even though they have no money on the line. Our powerful evidence lays to rest the idea that cash bail is necessary for the pretrial process.

So, how exactly does one person make a big impact? At The Bail Project, it’s important to us that everyone has the opportunity to join us in our mission, wherever they are in life, by whichever means they can. That’s why we offer multiple ways to get involved from making a single donation to joining our community of passionate monthly donors who make this work possible. We make it easy to build your own fundraiser, get your workplace involved, and help you leave your own legacy to help people experiencing poverty from pretrial incarceration for generations to come.

As we work to build a better, more just and humane pretrial system where freedom isn’t dependent on the size of one’s bank account, we’re proud to have our supporters by our side, making progress possible.

To learn more about how you can support The Bail Project, read about our model, learn all the ways you can give, or send us a message.

Thank you for reading this article and engaging with our work. Supporters like you are the backbone of our organization and how we are able to continue working towards our mission of creating a fairer system while paying bail for those in need for free. If you found value in this article, please consider donating to help sustain our work today.

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Development Manager

Meghan Hamilton

As the Development Manager, Meghan Hamilton oversees The Bail Project's individual giving program, donor communications and engagement, and fundraising campaigns. Before joining The Bail Project, she was the Individual Giving Specialist at Rewire News Group. She has spent over ten years in nonprofit development and communications for organizations including the American Humanist Association, Fresh Start Project DC, and volunteering her skills to her local homeless shelter and abortion fund. She was also a regular contributing author to 'The Humanist' from 2012-2018. She received her B.A. in history from the University of Maryland and is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE).