As you hear this message, nearly half a million people, who are presumed innocent, are sitting in jail cells across America. Most of them are there for one reason only: they cannot afford cash bail. I believe no one should be sitting behind bars before trial, away from their family and community, simply because they don’t have enough money to pay bail.
I believe that the presumption of innocence should protect us equally, regardless of how much money we make, the color of our skin, your background, and yes – even the accusation. I believe that Freedom Should Be Free.
Over the past two decades, cash bail has fueled mass incarceration in America. Jails have expanded massively in towns and cities only to incarcerate people who are presumed innocent but cannot afford the price of their freedom.
As a result, 2.5 million people are incarcerated each year due to cash bail that is beyond their reach. That’s bigger – by far– than most American cities. Imagine the families that are torn apart. Imagine the unpaid bills accumulating. Jobs lost. School days missed. The eviction notices. The days, months, and even years, that people will never get back.
Imagine the tens of thousands of people who every day are forced to choose between pleading guilty to go home or holding on to their innocence behind bars. All because they cannot pay bail. The injustice disproportionately harms people of color. Black and Latino communities account for more than 50% of those held before trial nationwide and up to 90% in some cities.
So cash bail also drives racial disparities in the criminal justice system at large. I believe this is unjust, immoral, and unnecessary and also terribly expensive. American taxpayers spend $14 billion dollars annually incarcerating people before trial. That’s nearly $40 million dollars a day.
It’s time to end the injustice of cash bail. It’s time to re-envision a more just and equitable system. One that protects our right to a fair trial and does not put a price tag on freedom. One that treats everyone with respect and dignity.
The Bail Project is our dream to reimagine just that. For the past year, our teams on the ground have been setting up sites in cities across America, paying bails and securing freedom for thousands of people, reuniting families, and restoring the presumption of innocence – one person, one bail at a time.
Through this work we are demonstrating that with effective court notifications and support, people come back to court. We are demonstrating that cash bail is not necessary, that we can take money out of the justice equation and instead focus on what people really need. Transportation. Healthcare. A safe place to call home.
Our national bail fund revolves as people come back to court and bail money is returned, and donations of all sizes are recycled over and over again to help additional people. This is a powerful tool that we will continue using until the day freedom is truly free and justice is equal to all of us. I believe that together we can end cash bail and create a vision of justice we can be proud of – one that heals and restores. But the road is long and it will take all of us to get there.
Will you join us?
Actor, producer, and human rights activist Danny Glover explains in this video why he supports The Bail Project. “Nearly half a million people who are presumed innocent are sitting in jail cells across America,” Glover said. “Most of them are there for one reason only: they cannot afford cash bail.”
Thank you for engaging with our content. People like you make a better world possible – a world where justice is not determined by someone’s wealth. The Bail Project is not only an immediate lifeline for people held on unaffordable cash bail, but a growing megaphone for public education and social change. If you have the means and found value in our content, please consider becoming a donor today.