For Mother’s Day, 13 local incarcerated women were able to come home thanks to the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, a branch of the National Bail Out Movement.
Today 10 local men are home for Father’s Day after PCBF paid their bail this week.
“We are just happy that we can help these men return to their family and loved ones in time for Father’s Day,” said Candace McKinley, a local organizer with PCBF.
National Bail Out, which began operation in 2017, has also bailed out the incarcerated on Valentine’s Day in addition to Mother’s and Father’s Day.
While the gesture is appreciated by the loved ones of those released, it also brings attention to a national problem of the criminal justice system.
The incarnated men and women bailed out were not convicted of a crime, but were held because they were unable to pay their bail.
“This can be devastating for a person and their family,” McKinley said. “You can just be stuck sitting in jail and your life can come apart as you wait for your trial. You can lose your job; you don’t have money to pay your rent or your mortgage. And if you have a family, who is going to be there to step in and help out? That is what we try to do.”
As Philadelphia Tribune reporter John Mitchell reports in a front page story in Friday’s edition, cash bail is a major local and national problem.
“Cash bail in the city remains a critical part of the criminal justice reform platform. The city conducts close to 60,000 bail hearings a year. The hearings usually occur within 20 hours of the arrest.
In a nutshell, a magistrate attaches a cash amount to a defendant and that defendant either can make bail or they cannot. If the amount is unattainable, chances are good that the defendant will remain in jail until their trial date arrives.
Multiple studies have demonstrated that pre-trial detention significantly increases the likelihood of a defendant pleading guilty, or being found guilty. It is estimated that the annual cost of detaining those not convicted of a crime is about $9 billion.”
A March 31 New York Times report titled “When Bail Feels Less Like Freedom, More Like Extortion” points out that bail has grown into a $2 billion industry.
“The use of bail bonds has come under attack in recent years because it keeps the poorest, rather than the most dangerous, defendants behind bars,” the Times reports.
“State after state has taken steps to reduce or eliminate the practice of making that freedom contingent on money. In response, the bond industry has worked to undermine reforms and regulations, arguing that commercial bail is still the most efficient and taxpayer-friendly way to keep the public safe and the courts running smoothly.”
According to the Times, “the use of financial conditions for bail has not always been as widespread as it is today. In 1990, only 24 percent of those released from jail before trial were required to pay. That number soared to almost 50 percent in 2009, the most recent year for which national figures are available. In some jurisdictions, the number is far higher: In New Orleans in 2015, 63 percent of misdemeanor defendants and 87 percent of felony defendants had to pay to be released before trial, according to a study by the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit that seeks to improve the criminal justice system.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced earlier this year that prosecutors would no longer seek cash bail for people accused of some misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, a significant and long overdue policy shift that should be adopted on a national level.