National fund starting to help bail defendants out of jail

A national endeavor is launching that aims to help low-income defendants get out of incarcerate by bailing them out as their criminal cases progress through the courts.

The Bail Project grew out of a successful 10 -year campaign in the Bronx to pay bail for needy instances, led by attorney Robin Steinberg of the Bronx Defenders, a legal assistance nonprofit. She said the decade of data from that endeavor showed that 95 percent of the people who were bailed out utilizing donated fund returned to tribunal for every appearance, and that when people could get out of jail, the majority were ultimately not convicted of a crime.

The project will continue in the Bronx, and will launch in January in Tulsa and St. Louis. It will grow to include a total of 40 different cities, utilizing a $16 million revolving fund and aims to bail out 160,000 over the next five years. Nonprofit workers will be stationed in the cities and will work with defense attorneys and community groups to interview people who have been incarcerated following accusations of a crime.

Bail is used as an insurance policy to get defendants turning now to court. The regulations differ nation by country, but a judge defines bail after someone is arrested in international crimes by weighing factors that include the risk of fleeing and the safety of community. The money is returned at the end of trial, minus processing fees in some states.

In New York, magistrates set bail in roughly 45,000 occurrences annually, and only about 12 percentage of defendants can pay in time to be released from court. The average fee is $1,000. Virtually half end up in jail for about a week because they can’t scrape together the money in the window of period between their arraignment and when they are sent to jail.

Jail reform advocates say bail disproportionately affects poor minorities, who can’t cobble together the money and who are disproportionately arrested in criminal cases. Even a night in jail can cause people to lose a chore, or custody of their children.

“It is actually intended to try to make sure that no one is incarcerated for their poverty and their race and that is what is happening in this country, ” Steinberg said.

Data from the Bronx indicates a single dollar can be used in two or three bail pays per year. Funders of The Bail Project Propel Capital, the Virgin Unite foundation, billionaire Mike Novogratz, CEO of Galaxy Investment Partner, and Jason Flom of Lava Records, and the nonprofit is seeking additional donations.

Steinberg said another function of the nonprofit will be to collect statistics on how bail is used in other cities, because there is a dearth of reporting.

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