The last two weeks of protests are another demonstration of Future Hindsight’s core message: being civically engaged can change the status quo. Thanks to protests in Minneapolis, all four officers involved in the murder of George Floyd face prosecution. Thanks to demonstrations in Los Angeles, funds destined for law enforcement are now being funneled into communities of color. Protests in all 50 states are enacting change before our very eyes. The message of equal justice under the law is heard loud and clear, and slowly our lawmakers—beginning at the local level—are listening.
Widespread civil unrest is one of the major catalysts for change in America. Unfortunately, with these protests come arrests, both warranted and unwarranted. We’ve seen shocking images of cities like Minneapolis on fire, but we’ve also seen videos of horrific police brutality against unarmed, peaceful protesters. We do not condone violence in any form, but we understand what is meant by Dr. King’s famous quote, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
As of Thursday, June 4, more than 10,000 protesters were reportedly arrested for their involvement in protests. With these arrests come a tool of systemic disenfranchisement: bail.
Listen to our interview on ending cash bail with Robin Steinberg here:
The American cash bail system originally incentivized the accused to appear at their court dates. With the advent of “tough-on-crime” policies, bail became a way to hold innocent, non-convicted Americans in jail cells, sometimes indefinitely. Today, America’s bail system props up systemic inequality, unfairly targeting black and brown citizens, and creating artificial barriers between innocent civilians and their freedom.
Our justice system is racist. African Americans are ten times more likely to be jailed for drug offenses than whites, despite similar rates of drug abuse. Black inmates serve more of their mandatory minimum sentences than their white counterparts. One of every three black males in America will end up behind bars at least once.
Once you’re arrested, the only way to get out is to make bail. Bail is set at significantly higher levels for black Americans. So, if you’re black, you’re A) more likely to be convicted for a crime, and B) expected to pay much more to regain your freedom. Keep in mind, in 2014, 27% of African Americans live below the poverty line, in contrast to 11% nation-wide. Additionally, risk assessment algorithms used to set bail in many parts of the country identify blacks as “high risk” twice as much as whites. Cash bail is also illegal in almost all of the world, except here.
Simply put: bail oppresses poor black people in America, and it’s shockingly effective. The people behind The Bail Project know this and are dedicated to ending cash bail, and making freedom free once again. Make sure to listen to our interview with Robin Steinberg, which is embedded above, for more.
As the protests around America continue, the arrests continue, and every person arrested and charged with any crime, such as disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace, must make bail to achieve their freedom. It is especially ironic that protesters fighting for equal justice will become victims of the racist institution of bail for merely expressing their opinion.
In the short term, the onerous burdens set by bail can be alleviated with a bail fund. These funds pay the bail of those arrested in a particular location, allowing them to return to their normal lives, jobs, and families. If you’re looking to show solidarity with the protesters marching for equal justice, but can’t join them in person, consider giving to one of these funds. You can do a quick google search to find a fund in your local area, or you can donate to an umbrella link that distributes your funds equally among many funds around the country, like this one.
In the long term, we need to eradicate cash bail. This moment in history provides precisely that opportunity. We know our lawmakers are listening, and as long as cash bail exists, our criminal justice system will remain unjust, regardless of other reforms.
Consider donating to The Bail Fund to help remove bail from America.
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