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Brooklyn Community Bail Fund – A Brilliant Response to an Unjust System

Pt. 3/31 in the Moon Cycle blog series.

This evening the moon is a beautiful thin crescent in the sky, but I’m thinking about something else that is shining light in a dark area. My friend and wonderful human Scott Hechinger, who works as a public defender in Brooklyn, has launched a new side project, the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. The concept is simple, targeted, and an incredibly smart approach to address a flaw in our legal system that further entrenches people in poverty and leads innocent people to plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit.

How so? The website explains the approach better than I can, but here it is in a nutshell:

  • Bail is required as part of our legal system primarily to ensure that defendants return to court when charged with a crime. The money is returned to the defendant after the trial.
  • Unfortunately, for many people living in poverty, (who also are the people most likely to be stopped, unlawfully searched, etc) bail of even $500 or $1000 is too much to pay. Faced with paying bail or spending multiple days in jail separated from family/away from their jobs, it leads many to plead guilty, effectively stripping them of their right to a fair trial.

Although we should advocate for a more just legal system overall, families living in poverty can’t wait only for larger structural shifts to take place. The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund is stepping in to address that need, by providing funds for people to post bail so that they can return to their jobs and families in order to access a fair trial. (Note – the awesome folks at Bronx Defenders also have a similar fund going.) The best part is that, once seeded, the fund is self-sustaining – when money is returned after a trial, it goes back into the fund to support the next person in need. I think this is one of the most inspiring parts of this initiative – any money that is donated will be used indefinitely to support people in need. Like the folks from Strike Debt/Rolling Jubilee who have used $700,000 in donations to abolish almost $15million in debts, the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund is a simple yet powerful concept, a donation that will keep giving and giving and giving.

Check out the below video, then hop on over to www.brooklynbailfund.org to learn more and support their work!

Video produced by my wonderful friends at New-Media Advocacy Project.

Today’s moon: Waxing crescent, 3.5% illuminated, in close proximity to Venus & Mars.

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Filed under: Moon Cycle

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A traveler, a listener, a gleaner of stories.

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