Jails present a heightened risk of infection during the ongoing pandemic. Plenty of Americans who have yet to be convicted but who can’t afford bail remain stuck in jail pending the resolution of their charges.
Colin Kaepernick and his Know Your Rights camp have teamed up with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights to help. The groups announced on Thursday morning that $1 million will be donated to community bail funds.
Dubbed the Funds for Freedom partnership, the effort expands on the RFK group’s Emergency Bail Out Action from earlier in the year. Initially, they’ll focus on 10 cities: Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Detroit, Durham, Fort Worth, Memphis, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, and San Antonio. (For more information and/or to donate to the efforts in any of these ten cities, just click on the city name.)
“Our legal system unjustly criminalizes our Black and Brown communities, penalizing poverty under the guise of keeping our communities safe,” Kaepernick said in a press release. “We must reimagine the current system and abolish wealth-based detention, freeing our brothers, sisters, and siblings from a racist system.”
Jails and prisons currently entail the five largest clusters of COVID-19. Seventy percent of the people in local jails are simply waiting for their day in court, because they can’t afford bail.
“Predatory cash bail is part and parcel of the institutionalized anti-Black racism that has plagued our country,” added Kerry Kennedy, the president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “This $1 million commitment from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp will empower community-led bail funds and accelerate their crucial work freeing people caged in our local jails, but our funding alone will never be enough. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ team of lawyers and advocates will work with local organizers to stop the aggressive policing and endless cycle of mass incarceration that have targeted poor and Black communities and move to end cash bail now.”
Remember, these incarcerated individuals haven’t been found guilty of anything. Under the Constitution, they’re still presumed innocent. And yet they languish behind bars because they can’t afford the payment necessary to secure their freedom pending trial.
“There is an urgency that I feel when it comes to getting people out of a cage,” Rahim Buford, manager of the Nashville Community Bail Fund said. “One hour, or two, or three in a jail cell — it can traumatize you for life, and the risks are even greater now with COVID-19 in jails across the nation. Of the 1,000 people we’ve freed since 2016, over half of those cases were ultimately not prosecuted. Had they stayed in jail, they would’ve more than likely pled guilty.”
Think about that. More than half who were jailed and then freed on bail were never even prosecuted.
So, yes, this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Again, to help in any of the 10 cities where current efforts are being focused — Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Detroit, Durham, Fort Worth, Memphis, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, and San Antonio — just click on the city name.