Over the past four years posting bail throughout the Commonwealth we've learned a great deal about the devastation cash bail wreaks throughout the United States and specifically in Massachusetts. This is our opportunity to share with our supporters what we've learned and what we've done to stop the damage. Our inaugural newsletter goes over what we do, why we do it, gives you a heads up on some upcoming events, and shares a few stories of who we help and how.
MBF STATUS REPORT
Thanks to our amazing base of supporters and volunteers, we re-opened at the beginning of September after a two month hiatus. We immediately started receiving referrals and posting bail. We have since posted bail for men and women at the following jails:
Nashua Street Jail
Billerica House of Correction
Worcester House of Correction
Plymouth County Correctional Facility
Middleton House of Correction
South Bay House of Correction
Chicopee Correctional Center
As of October 2016, we have posted bail for 382 people in Massachusetts for a total bail amount of $176,111. 50% of all closed cases were dismissed outright. These clients would have been held in jail for no reason were it not for our ability to post their bail.
WHAT IS MONEY BAIL AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Money bail is a system of collateral. It’s the sum of money that a defendant must give the court in order to get out of jail prior to any further court dates. Bail is predicated on the idea that monetary collateral ensures that defendants will show up to their next court dates. If you don’t show up, your bail money is “forfeited.” People with money can afford bail and are released almost immediately. Poor defendants cannot afford bail, so the system simply holds them in jail until the completion of their case. This can take weeks, months, or even years.
Money bail criminalizes poverty.
These defendants have not been proven guilty of any crime; many of their cases get dismissed long before they get to trial. In fact, over 50% of all Massachusetts Bail Fund clients have their cases dismissed. In a money bail system, those too poor to afford bail spend time in jail simply because they are poor.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, 70 percent of the 646,000 people held in local jails across the country are being held pretrial. Over 60% of those unable to post a bail are in the poorest third of American society, while over 80% are in the bottom half. Those held in jail pretrial are not necessarily our most dangerous defendants, nor are they the defendants with the highest flight risk.
People held in jail on low bail are our poorest, most vulnerable citizens.
An inability to post bail leads to dramatically worse outcomes for those incarcerated. Studies, time and time again, have confirmed that in a money bail system, convictions increase disproportionately, recidivism rates rise, and sentences become lengthier. For example, in a study for the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Megan Stevenson found that defendants unable to post bail face up to a 30% increase in convictions due to their inability to post bail. Pretrial incarceration has disastrous impacts on the lives of the incarcerated. Families are torn apart. Jobs are lost. And despite this serious cost, studies have shown that money bail is no more effective than other pretrial conditions, like phone call and email reminders, at achieving its stated ends: ensuring defendants return to court.
AT A GLANCE
382 People Bailed
167 Cases Closed
4 Lost Bails
SAVE THE DATE
MBF FUNDRAISER: DECEMBER 11, 2016
R is an elderly homeless man whose bail of $200 was more than he could afford. We were able to quickly post his bail which allowed him to attend a detox program and continue with drug treatment while his case was ongoing. He attended every court date as required and when his case closed we were able to re-use the $200 for the next client.
D is a young college student whose bail of $500 was more than his supportive family could afford. We were able to post his bail within a few days which enabled him to stay in the community with his family while his case continued and concluded. His case has since closed and we were able to retrieve the money and use it for the next client.
HOW DO WE HELP?
The Massachusetts Bail Fund is dedicated to the goal of ending money bail. We do this through the primary avenue available to us: posting bail for those too poor to afford it. Our volunteers go to jails throughout the Commonwealth and pay up to $500 in bail in order to free someone who would otherwise sit in jail until their case concluded.
The fund posts as many cash bails as permitted by our budget, a budget determined by how many donations we receive from the community. We will continue to fight each day to free as many members of our community as we can, from an unjust system of pretrial detention. And in doing so, we hope not only to provide freedom to the most vulnerable members of our community, but also to prove just how deeply unfair and useless this system continues to be. Join us.