Abolitionist Tech is Helping Get People Home for the Holidays

Cash bail is immoral, racist, and classist.  Two new computer apps are helping fight it.

The United States has a system of cash bail, where people accused of crimes are required to produce a certain amount of money — $500, $1000, or higher — in order to be released from jail before their trial. If you can’t come up with that money, then you stay in jail — for weeks, months and even years. This practice, like our entire criminal legal system, disproportionately affects poor black people and poor people of color

Two new apps are helping change that by raising bail funds for people who need it. Appolition works by rounding up your credit card purchases to the nearest dollar, sending the spare change to National Bail Out. The other, Bail Bloc, is free to you as a user; you run the program on your computer and it automatically mines bitcoin for the Bronx Freedom Fund.

Pre-trial detention has a devastating impact on incarcerated people, their families and their entire communities, causing people to lose jobs and housing, depriving them of necessary medical care or the ability to care for children and family members, and exposing them to assault and violence in jails, particularly for LGBTQ folks. The human toll is staggering: 80% of women in jails are single mothers, and over 3 million children in the United States have a parent in jail, which causes a significant negative impact in a child’s life. Being in jail also makes it extremely difficult for people to argue their cases, with many pleading guilty just to be able to go home, take care of their families, and work.

Bail fund apps are just one part of the strategy by community organizers to end money bail and transform our entire legal system. Actions like Southerners on New Ground’s Black Mama’s Day Bailout and the work of the more than 30 community bail funds throughout the country seek to counteract the devastating impacts of mass incarceration.

As prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba said, “By posting bail for people who can’t afford it, community bail funds provide a necessary intervention in the prison pipeline. Community bail funds go beyond being a band-aid to the prison industrial complex by pushing to end money bail and pretrial detention.”

In addition to providing critical support for community members in a time of need, the fight to end money bail also pushes us to think more broadly about how to create a world where we do not rely on prisons as the solution to social problems. How do we provide housing, healthcare, and food rather than criminalizing poverty? How do we close jails? How do we dismantle and defund the police? How do we make cages obsolete, and how can our everyday actions make that a reality?

Download these apps and follow the conversation using the #EndMoneyBail hashtag.

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Header image via  Appolition.

Jess is a first-gen college graduate, cat parent, and LGBTQ person living in Boston, MA. At Feministing, Jess writes about the intersection of state and interpersonal violence, LGBTQ communities and radical activism. They can usually be found on public transportation or the internet.

Jess is a first-gen college graduate, cat parent, and LGBTQ person living in Boston, MA. They can usually be found on public transportation or the internet.

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