To our Community,
The mission of the Massachusetts Bail Fund has always been to free people from jail. We are a non-judgmental, abolitionist bail fund. We post bail for people regardless of charge or court history. Our self-imposed monetary limit has only ever existed to ensure our often resource-limited fund remains sustainable and predictable for people seeking our assistance. We have communicated publicly that, when asked and able, we post bails that exceed our cap. Currently, as we explain on our website, we are exploring the financial feasibility of posting higher bails. We do this work because pretrial detention is harmful and racist. Pretrial detention keeps people in cages for months or years, causing them to lose their housing, lose their jobs, lose their children, and potentially lose their lives. And throughout the Commonwealth, judges and prosecutors impose higher bails on Black and Brown people than white people for the same categories of offenses.
The criminal legal system operates on the myth that it provides safety and well-being. Yet the safest communities are those with the most resources, not the most policing, prosecution, and incarceration. The system preys on vulnerable people and normalizes physical and sexual violence against the people under its control, while sensationalizing isolated acts of violence to preserve its own power. By weaponizing individual cases in which people have caused harm, the system has caused generations of devastation in Black and Brown communities. At a time of mass mobilizations to disrupt the power of policing and systemic racism, using isolated cases to whip up “crime and punishment” fearmongering fits a centuries’ old pattern. The recent articles in The Boston Globe attacking the Massachusetts Bail Fund go hand in hand with a broader right-wing attack on bail funds nationwide that use fearmongering to prop up a white supremacist institution rightfully under scrutiny.
It is a statistical rarity for a person released pretrial to be arrested and charged with a new offense while their original criminal case is pending. In a 2016 study, the Massachusetts Trial Court found that only 6.8% of tens of thousands of people released pretrial were arraigned on any new criminal charge while their original case was still open. In other words, 93% of released people were not charged with a new offense.
It is a profound tragedy when any person is harmed. Bail fund staff and volunteers know this personally, and we believe that people who have been harmed need and deserve access to community supports, trauma services, and healing. As the first national survey of survivors of violence illustrates, people who have been harmed want to focus on healing and rehabilitation, not punishment and incarceration.
We support community-led efforts to prevent, respond to, and heal from harm. We follow their vision for a transformed world, which recognizes that people who cause harm have often experienced significant harm and trauma—including state violence—and incarceration only compounds that trauma and harm. Grassroots community organizations led by people who are most impacted by policing and punishment as well as violence and systemic racism are doing that deep and difficult work—usually without interest from media outlets.
We share these grassroots organizations’ abolitionist vision of a future where communities have the resources to address harm when it happens and seek community accountability. People need healthcare, healing and trauma services, employment and economic opportunity, education, and housing. We will continue to post bail as we are able, ensuring that freedom is not just for the wealthy and that presumption of innocence is preserved. We will continue to work with people’s families and communities so people can be as prepared for release as possible.We will continue to work toward abolishing pretrial detention alongside fellow abolitionists who are leading community organizing to end cycles of harm and poverty and create processes for healing and well-being.
Thank you to our supporters and those who join us in this theory of change.