The Bail Project
The Bail Project is an effort to combat mass incarceration in the US by disrupting the bailsystem. A revolving bail fund pays bail for those who can’t afford it. Working closely with public defender offices and local organizations in high-need jurisdictions, networks of “Bail Disruptors” identify bail recipients and support clients through the legal process. Meanwhile, the central support team manages the revolving fund, identifies new sites and collects data and stories to support efforts toward meaningful reform.
Photo caption above: Detroit Bail Disruptors Megan Diebboll and Asia Johnson at a protest demanding justice for George Floyd. / The Bail Project
Since its launch, The Bail Project has posted $32 million in bail and conducted more than 14,000 bailouts across 20 US cities for low-income people, restoring their sense of dignity and presumption of innocence.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, The Bail Project has worked with local jurisdictions and stakeholders to continue operating virtually. In the month of April, they conducted nearly 600 bailouts — including emergency bailouts in jails that were becoming COVID-19 hotspots.
Having achieved its initial funding goal set in 2018, The Bail Project has now expanded its sights to develop an even more ambitious strategy that will enable greater geographic expansion and innovations in service delivery, with a focus on the south.
Emergency Bailouts Save Lives
Keanna was in the first trimester of her pregnancy when she was incarcerated at Cook County Jail in Chicago because she could not afford cash bail. At the time, Cook County Jail had become a national hotspot for COVID-19 cases, with infections climbing from zero to several hundred in just a matter of weeks. As a result of her incarceration, Keanna had lost her apartment and her job. Her absence also created instability for her youngest child, who had to move in with relatives. Fortunately, The Bail Project was able to post her bail as part of their emergency bailouts initiative in Chicago. Keanna recently welcomed her new baby and is working to start her own business. Stories like hers remind us of the stakes of the effort to end cash bail, and underscore the need to create a more equitable and humane pretrial system.
“As soon as the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the US, we knew it wouldn’t be long before the virus entered overcrowded jails and spread inside like wildfire. Anticipating this humanitarian crisis, our teams quickly jumped into action adapting their systems to conduct virtual bailouts and advocating for releases.”