Ending cash bail in America’s Deep South

The Bail Project_Bail Out the South
The Bail Project
Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
25 May 2021
Ending cash bail is essential for civil rights and racial justice in the US, particularly in the Deep South.

The Bail Project – a Virgin Unite partner working to end cash bail and reimagine the pretrial justice system in the US – is expanding its geographical reach this year with a focus on the South.

This new expansion will allow The Bail Project to provide free bail assistance and pretrial support to thousands of people in Black and low-income communities in the region, while working at the policy level to advance bail reform in those states.

The Bail Project makes the argument that cash bail is not only unjust, but unnecessary, and proposes a model of Community Release with Support as an alternative. Through BAIL OUT the SOUTH, The Bail Project plans to double its reach in the South in 2021 with a focus on Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida.

The Bail Project | Bail out the South

America’s South has the highest rates of pretrial jail incarceration in the country. Seven of the 10 states with the highest incarceration rates are in the South and the region is ground zero for the devastating impact of mass incarceration and cash bail on Black Americans. Of all Black Americans in jail in the US, nearly half are in jails in a handful of southern states.

According to Robin Steinberg, CEO and Founder of The Bail Project: “While the harmful effects and injustice of cash bail and pretrial incarceration are widespread across the [U.S.], they are most acute in the south. BAIL OUT the SOUTH stems from our commitment to go where need is greatest as we work more broadly to advance bail reform, eliminate cash bail, and ultimately put ourselves out of business.”

Research from the Prison Policy Initiative shows that judges are more likely to set higher bail amounts for Black people, who are also less likely to be able to afford it. Inability to pay bail makes the accused more likely to plead guilty, forfeit their right to trial, and receive a longer sentence than individuals similarly charged but at liberty throughout their pretrial process. “The current cash bail system feeds mass incarceration and is a linchpin of systemic racism in the criminal legal system,” said Twyla Carter, National Policy Director at The Bail Project.

“Ultimately, bailouts are not the long-term solution to this problem, but they are an effective strategy for helping those who are trapped and suffering right now. We look forward to working with local partners and leaders to push for lasting policy reforms that end cash bail by investing in public health approaches to safety and community-based alternatives to incarceration.”

Virgin Unite’s partnership with The Bail Project began in 2018 through TED’s Audacious Project. Since then they’ve gone from an idea to a national organisation, operating in 25 jurisdictions across the United States. They have posted $41 million in free bail assistance for more than 16,000 low-income individuals.

We’re proud to support The Bail Project on its mission to eliminate cash bail in America. To support its work and new programme, BAIL OUT the SOUTH, visit the website and donate if you can.