The Bail Project, a group that previously let out soon-to-be criminals, seeks to end cash bail in the Deep South as it expands its influence in the region.
Organizers of The Bail Project’s “Bail Out the South” campaign told the Associated Press (AP) that the group seeks to pay the bail of thousands and will open offices in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina in 2021 — doubling the organization’s presence in the Deep South. Their ultimate goal is to put an end to the practice of cash bail by partnering with local organizations and advocacy groups, CEO Robin Steinberg told the AP.
“When I think about our work around social justice and racial justice, you simply can’t talk about those issues without dealing with what’s happening in the South,” Steinberg said of the new undertaking.
The Bail Project launched in 2018 in the wake of a 10-year effort in New York City spearheaded by Steinberg and The Bronx Freedom Fund, according to the group’s website. The organization bails out low-income defendants as their case makes its way through the justice system, the AP reported. (RELATED: Bail Fund Promoted By Kamala Harris Helped Man Accused Of Sexually Penetrating A Child)
While this is great to see, it’s a reminder that too many people are locked up in jail only because they cannot afford bail. It’s time for change. https://t.co/Awvf9kKxPn
— Reverend Raphael Warnock (@ReverendWarnock) May 2, 2021
Over the three years since its inception, The Bail Project has paid $41 million in bail for more than 15,500 defendants in more than 24 cities across the country and has prevented more than 100,000 days of incarceration for its beneficiaries, the AP reported.
“What The Bail Project does is remove money from the criminal justice equation,” Steinberg said, according to the AP. “We level the playing field, so the presumption of innocence actually means something and people can return to their families and get their day in court without pressure to plead guilty,” she added.
In the past, The Bail Project has been the subject of national controversy. Holly Zoller, a “Bail Disruptor” located in Louisville, Kentucky, rented a U-Haul truck found near Black Lives Matter demonstrations in September 2020, according to Politifact. Video captured by the Daily Caller’s Shelby Talcott showed that the U-Haul truck was filled with shields, signs, and other supplies. In her individual capacity, Zoller organized “anti-fascist” demonstrations in the past, but The Bail Project’s resources were not used on the U-Haul or its contents, Politifact reported.
A parked U-Haul was waiting for the crowd up the street. It contains supplies such as signs, shields, water etc. I’m not sure how people knew what it contained. Police are up ahead pic.twitter.com/qObHK3E83y
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) September 23, 2020
In April 2020, The Chicago Tribune reported that The Bail Project paid $5,000 in bail for then-four-time felon Christopher Stewart, 34, after he was arrested for illegally carrying a handgun. After The Bail Project paid his bail, Stewart was charged with attempted murder after he lit his ex-girlfriend’s apartment on fire. The woman had to be rescued by law enforcement as she hung out her kitchen window trying to avoid the blaze, according to The Chicago Tribune.
The Chicago Tribune’s analysis found that between The Bail Project and the Chicago Community Bond Fund from February 2017 to April 2020, the two organizations bailed out 162 people charged with felonies — including three individuals charged with murder and ten charged with attempted murder.
Over one-fifth of the 162 felony defendants were charged with new crimes while they were out on the bond paid for by The Bail Project and the Chicago Community Bond Fund, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Despite these failures from The Bail Project and other bail charities like the Minnesota Freedom Fund—which was promoted by Vice President Kamala Harris on Twitter — cities across the nation are buying these organizations’ arguments and doing away with cash bail for some lower-level, non-violent offenses, the AP reported. Some district attorney candidates, such as the recently-elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, have made vows to end cash bail.