Being unable to pay bail can be an incredibly disruptive event. The psychological effects of being locked up, potentially facing criminal charges, are bad enough. But if someone is fired because they miss work, it can set an already financially insecure person back for a long time.
That’s why The Bail Project exists. This national effort helps poor people navigate the criminal justice system, primarily by paying people’s bail fees.
According to an article in Bridge Magazine, it’s recently been paying bail for Detroiters. In Metro Detroit, it has done so for about two dozen inmates who have bonds of less than $5,000. Its goal is to bail out one person per day.
The Bail Project is just one such group demanding for reform to the system.
“There are growing calls to eliminate cash bail,” writes Chastity Pratt Dawsey for Bridge Magazine, “because poor people and people of color are more likely to remain behind bars, often for minor offenses, because they don’t have cash to be released before their case is heard. At the same time, counties statewide are moving to better ensure poor people get assigned a lawyer to help them in bail hearings.”
City Councilmember Mary Sheffield is one such person calling for bail reform. She wants to eliminate bail entirely, whose cost is set by the judge.
Another is Amanda Alexander, founder of the Detroit Justice Center, who proposes alternatives to the bail process. “What the data does show is that if people get a text message reminder of their court date, that can be effective. Cash bail is just not necessary,” Alexander said in the article.