I’m Mike. I’m from Powderly, Kentucky and we’re sitting on my property. I am as country as country can be and proud of it I guess. I’ve lived here for about 50 years. I took a job several years back to tear a house down and my mother’s uncle told me that it was a log cabin. Well of course it was covered in siding and a you couldn’t tell it was a log cabin. As I was tearing it down I realized he was right and then we disassembled it and brought it up here, put it back together. The work that went into it I wouldn’t do it again for love nor money. But everybody else seems to really enjoy it!
When coal mining went out around here the economy went from people buying new homes and new cars to losing the new homes and new cars, and it’s been pretty much poverty-stricken ever since. What it was like being arrested and going to jail. Humiliating. I turned the wrong way down a one-way street. Before I knew it literally there was three or four cop cars and a slam down on the ground. Mistreated I felt like. But I guess they probably have to be for their own safety. I’m sure that was part of it. Just humiliated. In front of everybody and vehicle towed off. And ripped apart. I knew I wasn’t DUI and looking back the lady kept telling me that if you’ll pay for it you can go to the hospital and get a blood test or whatever. Because looking back I know that she was trying to direct me in the right direction. If I’d done that I would have never.
What was my experience like working with The Bail Project? I was surprised to even know one existed. And I’d been there 10 or 11 days and after calling The Bail Project the next day my bond was posted. I thought this is unbelievable. I was wondering how in the world I was going to come up with six thousand dollars. Most people, especially the people that I’m familiar with, for instance 10,000 cash, it could be a million it wouldn’t make no difference. If you hadn’t got it you hadn’t got it. Guilty, innocent, don’t matter. You’ll sit there and wonder… wonder how can they call it a commonwealth when ain’t nothing common about it.
We kind of laugh around here about having a bail bondsman to get you out. You’re not getting out around here until either a friend, your family, or someone puts up the bail bond. And it’s always so ridiculously high that you’re going to stay in jail until they decide otherwise. And that is just about the way it is. What am I hopeful for in the future? I hope y’all get what y’all are shooting for. Well that’s a good question. So many things really. Prioritize. I hope my son and my grandson have a good life. I hope they get what they want. That set aside, I just hope they’re happy irregardless of what they want. One of these days Ryder will be sitting right here I’m sure. I hope.
Across the nation, financially strapped individuals are tossed into a cycle of poverty and incarceration as a result of the US cash bail system. Low-income defendants in rural America are impacted in unique ways, yet their experiences are often overlooked. We talked to people throughout Kentucky — where incarceration rates are higher than the United States average — and visited the quiet, rural town of Powderly to learn more. There, we met with Mike, who shared his experience of pretrial detention in the Louisville Metro Detention Center and how the cash bail system impacts his community. Many residents in Powderly live below the poverty line. “We live rough around here, ” Mike said. “I’ll be honest with you, I ain’t got $10 in my pocket.”
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