We believe that paying bail for someone in need is an act of resistance against a system that criminalizes race and poverty and an act of solidarity with local communities and movements for decarceration. Over the next five years, The Bail Project will open dozens sites in high-need jurisdictions with the goal of paying bail for tens of thousands of low-income Americans, all while collecting stories and data that prove money bail is not necessary to ensure people return to court. We won’t stop until meaningful change is achieved and the presumption of innocence is no longer for sale.
The seed for The Bail Project was planted over 10 years ago when The Bronx Freedom Fund, the first-of-its-kind nonprofit, revolving bail fund in the country, launched in New York City. Since then, The Bronx Freedom Fund has grown out of a determination to combat mass incarceration and racial disparities at the front end of the system. Because bail is returned at the end of a case, we are able to build a sustainable revolving fund where philanthropic dollars can be used several times per year, maximizing the impact of every contribution.
As one of the oldest revolving community bail funds and a leader in the field, The Bronx Freedom Fund has provided technical assistance and step-by-step guides to help other funds spring up across the country. Over the years, our model has been strengthened by our close collaboration with local community partners, stakeholders, and public defenders. Beyond the human impact of the Freedom Fund, stories and data from our work in the Bronx have been instrumental in showing that unaffordable cash bail is not only unjust, but also unnecessary.
In 2018, with the support of The Audacious Project at TED, we got the opportunity to take the lessons and expertise we developed in the Bronx and scale the revolving bail fund model to a national level with the goal of providing bail assistance on an unprecedented scale while working with community partners toward meaningful and long-lasting reforms. The Bail Project is our dream to reimagine a more just and equitable pretrial system, one that is truly grounded in the presumption of innocence for all, regardless of race, economic status, or accusation.