Last week the LA County Board of Supervisors authorized the Public Defender to expand their work with the Bail Project to the Van Nuys courthouse. The Bail Project has initially worked with the Public Defender’s office in Compton, and their approach produced an extraordinary 97% success rate in appearances and 65 cash bailouts.
The Bail Project is a non-profit organization designed to combat mass incarceration by changing the money bail system. They accomplish this by giving the court an agreed-upon deposit that stands as bail for an individual. Their goal is to open more sites in high-need areas and pay bail for thousands of low-income Americans while collecting data on the oppressive nature of the current cash bail system.
The origins of the Bail project lie in the New York based Bronx Freedom Fund, a revolving bail fund used to pay people’s bail. Over the years, the Bronx Freedom Fund has provided a blueprint for similar organizations across the country.
One of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system is that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, yet the requirements of cash bail seems to run counter to this tenet. Cash bail criminalizes poverty, resulting in people languishing in jail while awaiting trial simply because they are unable to pay. Oftentimes, the bail amount holding people in custody is $1000 or less, and it is disproportionately people of color who are held in detention due to unpaid bail. Being held in pretrial detention has many negative effects on people’s lives, including job loss, housing loss and even accepting plea bargains just to be released. By paying someone’s bail, the Bail Project is helping to prevent these injustices and providing relief for those held in jail.
The LA County Public Defender’s partnership with the Bail Project has ensured that people are released quickly while also allowing justice to be carried out in a more equitable fashion.
Read more about the Compton pilot program here