Tallahassee Bail Fund – 30 People Released Within First Year
Learn more about the Tallahassee Bail Fund's impact on criminal defendants in Florida with our latest article written by Karissa!
IntroductionIn many cases, if you have been charged with a crime that is not a felony offense you can be released after paying a cash bail. But what happens if the price of bail is set too high? Dealing with the consequences of being charged with a crime is already an extreme burden. Putting a price tag on your freedom back adds to that burden significantly. Most people don’t have tens of thousands of dollars lying around in case they need bail money. What results is reaching out to family and friends for help, or worse—sitting in a jail cell until your court date, which can take months.
Luckily, a group of individuals came together in 2020 to form the Tallahassee Bail Fund. The purpose of this organization is to provide financial relief for those who must pay bail but cannot afford it. As a small collective of people from all walks of life, it is inspiring to see how much the Tallahassee Bail Fund has already accomplished in such a small amount of time. In just over a year, they have already been successful in helping with the release of 30 inmates who could not pay their own bail.
Pre-trial incarceration causes extreme difficulty in a person’s life, even if it is just for a few days. Between missing work and causing strain on family and relationships, no one wants to end up behind bars if they don’t have to. Pre-incarceration creates an economic strain on the justice system, amounting to over $9 billion wasted – often on people who haven’t even been convicted of a crime. In addition, the percentage of people being incarcerated has drastically increased by 500% since 1980, with Black citizens twice as more likely to be placed in jail before even seeing a court room. The LGBTQ+ community is also targeted when charged with a crime, often facing both sexual and physical abuse when put in a jail cell. For example, one in five transgender women have been put in jail, with three out of those five reporting sexual assault upon entering the cell.
With all these unfortunate facts reaching the surface, they exemplify that there is a desperate need to try and fix the problem of pre-trial detention and bail, or r at least to try and alleviate the burden of the cost of bail. This was the thought process behind members of justice organizations in May of 2020, and from that the Tallahassee Bail Fund was born.
So how exactly does the fund work? And does the creation of this fund highlight the underlying issues of bail?
What is the Tallahassee Bail Fund?The year 2020 brought many hardships across the nation—mainly as an outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic. A study by the Prison Policy Initiative found that at any given time there were over half a million people who were either in prison or jail, on pre-trial detention. A key reason for the number being this high was because of the cost of bail, and the inability for these people to pay it.
A bail fund collects money for the purpose of assisting in posting bail for the people sitting in jail awaiting trial. Depending on the state and the community in charge of the organization, the eligibility and amount of bail supported can vary. It can be set up in different ways in different cities. For the case of the Tallahassee Bail Fund, it is a volunteer-based, grassroots coalition that mainly relies on community-based, crowdsourced funds to help pay bail for those in need of assistance. In addition, the fund makes sure to work together with these people in need and their loved ones, to ensure they will have housing, food, and access to mental and physical health services after leaving the jail system.
The Tallahassee Bail Fund is registered with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to work as a charitable organization. None of the original group members are official social workers but have been provided guidance by Leon County to receive a crash course in the criminal justice system. The organization has also worked collectively with the Dream Defenders. They’ve stated that 95% of the money donated through PayPal and Venmo gets put directly towards the bail itself, but additional costs go towards necessities for after the release from jail.
The Tallahassee Bail Fund prides themselves not only on the work to get people out of the cell, but to help them remain free. People who are at risk of being arrested and need help with bail are also those who face the crossings of unemployment, poverty, mental health, and substance abuse. There is no longer a safety net for people in the community who need it most—and if they’ve been charged and placed in jail, that completely strips them of any semblance of hope for a future. The “aftercare” team of the Tallahassee Bail Fund gets to work as soon as they return home to generate networks for mutual aid and help provide instant relief.
With as much time and effort is going into serving citizens with bail relief it raises the question, is the concept of bail an issue to begin with?
Is There an Underlying Issue with Bail?The concept of bail creates a two-tiered section of justice: people who can afford to pay their bail and get out of jail, and those who cannot and have to remain in jail. This is obviously a huge issue with the criminal justice system.
A Florida State University professor was interviewed in a Tallahassee Democrat article, with a statement claiming that both secured money bonds and unsecured money bonds are equally effective, meaning it’s not quite necessary to charge a bail price, especially ones that are too high for any normal person to be able to afford. Professor Copp stated, “And even the bondsmen that charge 10-15% of someone’s bail to release them are profiting on the backs of indigent group of defendants. It’s a discriminatory and predatory system.” If you would like to read more about the bail bond system in Florida, you can do so here.
Is the bail system something that should continue in the US? Or is there a better way to deal with people who have been charged with a crime? Although there’s no immediate answer, The Tallahassee Bail Fund is doing what they can to try and ease some of the difficulty.
Who Has it Helped So Far?The Tallahassee Bail Fund has been successful in releasing 30 people from jail already since their start just over a year ago. For a newly formed grassroots organization, that’s some quality work.
Out of the 30 people released, one woman named Angela Crum explained her case and how the fund has helped change her life around. After going down a dangerous path involving drugs, the newly made grandmother found herself arrested for possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell. She claimed it was a case of wrong place, wrong time. She was shocked to find that her bail had been set to $20,000. Neither Crum nor her family could afford the bail price, and she was stuck sitting in a jail cell for over three months.
With the hardships of life in a jail cell on top of the new concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic, Crum realized she needed to ask for assistance to get her out. She said it was a toxic environment, and her medical needs were neglected. Luckily for Crum, her attorney was able to get the judge to lower her bail price to $5,000, and then reached out to the Tallahassee Bail Fund for help. After her release, Crum keeps reiterating that the fund saved her life. She was able to get the medical help she needed, seek out therapy for post-traumatic stress, and has been able to spend time with her family.
Crum is one of 30, and hopefully that number continues to rise. It appears that the Tallahassee Bail Fund is doing some incredible work. But what about those who don’t manage to get external help? This is a continuous example of a system that needs reform, so we can work as a community to help those in need instead of locking them up as the only answer.
If you wish to donate or seek a way to help the fund, click here.
Tallahassee Criminal Defense LawyerIf you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, it is imperative to seek out the help of an experienced attorney. Getting the right advice and legal help can make the difference between getting placed in a jail cell and walking free. As helpful as the Tallahassee Bail Fund has been for people sitting in jail or prison, it is obviously ideal to avoid that outcome altogether. Don Pumphrey and the team at Pumphrey Law Criminal Defense are ready to fight in your corner and ensure you receive the best possible outcome for your case. Call (850) 681-7777 for your free consultation.