Our team identifies people in need, and pays their bail so they can fight their cases without feeling pressured to plead guilty. We then call and text them to remind them to return to court on their appointed date. Our experience shows that they almost universally do. To date, over half the people we have paid bail for with our pilot project have gone on to be found not guilty or have had their charges dismissed.
With our fund’s model, a single dollar can be recycled and reused to pay bail two to three times per year. When someone pays bail and comes back for court their bail payment is refunded — it basically functions like a deposit. That means donations to The Bail Project go into a revolving fund — we take a donation, use it to pay someone’s bail, they show up for their court dates, we get our bail payment back, we use the money for another bail payment.
In New York, where we have operated a similar fund for 10 years, we have found that when people are released from pretrial detention, they cannot be coerced into pleading guilty — and more than 50% of the cases are dismissed outright. When prosecutors do not dismiss cases, almost half of the charges are reduced to non-criminal violations that do not result in a criminal record — the equivalent of a traffic ticket.
Almost 20% of the nation’s jail population is housed in just 20 jurisdictions — by focusing on those places, we can make a huge impact. Here’s where we’re starting, and where we’re planning on going: