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Rockton Spotlight: Mark

Like so many others, the pandemic (and a recent milestone birthday) have had me contemplating the meaning of life, the value of time, the value of money, and stuff that really matters.  And while I’ve explored enough of these questions to write a novel, I wanted to share something I found meaningful to me related to Justice, an important virtue I highly value.

I’m a huge fan of the Bail Project (www.bailproject.org), whose goal is to end mass incarceration, free as many people as possible, and fuel momentum for equal justice.  It was eye-opening to do a little research and see that the US system of incarceration, one of the worst globally, has an originally well-intended but incredibly flawed bail system that disproportionately suppresses the poor and people of color. 

Our cash bail system creates a backwards system that assumes guilt over innocence, while we hold onto democratic ideals that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.  If accused of a crime, you may be offered an option to post cash bail or sit in jail until you can be seen in court, which is usually weeks to months wait.  Suppose you are poor and are arrested for a presumed crime.  Suppose a judge sets bail for you at $100.  If you cannot produce $100, you are sent to jail until you can have your court appearance.  And many offenses brought to court are thrown out.

But the impact of the inability to cough up cash bail has much worse consequences besides incarceration.  Suppose you’re a single mom working a job and raising two kids, and you are arrested on a minor charge.  You don’t have cash for bail, so they incarcerate you.  Then your employer fires you for not showing up to work.  Since your kids have no caretaker, they are put into protective custody of the state or a foster home.  All for a non-proven offense that may get thrown out of court once you face a judge.

Remember, bail gets refunded once a person goes to court.  The bail money is an enticement to make sure they show up.  So the consequences of being poor are extreme.

The Bail Project has a revolving fund that helps someone in this situation keep their job and their family by posting the bail for them.  They have a team of people that also coach clients to make sure they show up for their court appearances.  An astonishingly high percentage of bail is returned to the Bail Project to keep this cycle repeating, and this is where some of my charitable giving goes each year.

The Bail Project combats mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system. They restore the presumption of innocence, reunite families, and challenge a system that criminalizes race and poverty. They’re on a mission to end cash bail and create a more just, equitable, and humane pretrial system.  And that, for me, is a prime example of bringing more justice to our world.

Mark

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