National Black Mama’s Bail Out Day is a national campaign spearheaded by the Atlanta-based activist group Southerners on New Ground (SONG). The campaign plans to pay the bail money of jailed Black mothers not convicted of a crime to be home in time for Mother’s Day, May 14.
According to a report from the Prison Policy Initiative, 70 percent of the 646,000 people incarcerated in more than 3,000 local jails have not yet been convicted of a crime.
“One reason that the unconvicted population in the U.S. is so large is because our country largely has a system of money bail, in which the constitutional principle of innocent until proven guilty only really applies to the well off,” authors of the report state.
Since 2000, 95 percent of the growth in the overall jail inmate population (123,500) was due to the increase in the unconvicted population (117,700 inmates), the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reports.
Many Black women who are not convicted of a crime but are being held on charges such as traffic violations simply cannot afford the bail money.
The Prison Policy Initiative report states that in 2015, the median annual pre-incarceration income for Black women in local jails unable to post a bail bond was $9,083 — below the Census Bureau poverty threshold.
From the Prison Policy Initiative
Joining SONG in its efforts is a coalition of organizations including Black Lives Matter chapters in Memphis and Atlanta, the Dream Defenders, SisterSong and the Texas Organizing Project, among others. Organizers have reached their goal of raising more than $250,000.
Their fundraising will free at least 30 women in Atlanta, Houston, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and other cities nationwide, according to The Nation.
“Eighty percent of women who are in cages are single parents and caretakers in our communities,” Mary Hooks, co-director of SONG, told Rolling Out in an interview.
Hooks said that the selection of mothers for the campaign “is based on whether or not folks are in pre-trial and eligible for bail, meaning they are in a cage waiting for their court date and have a bail set that they cannot pay.”
“This campaign has shown us how intricate the web of the criminal injustice system is woven, making it difficult to contact our people who are caught up in it. Our team filed open records request a few weeks ago to get a list of the Black women who are being detained in the city jail.
“When we ran the report, we found that there were 37 Black women that were there on pre-trial. Many of the women were being held on charges such as urban camping (homelessness), the use of fighting words, and traffic violations.”
Hooks said that the list of women the organization obtained “did not include Black trans women because they are housed on the men’s side of the jail.”
“With the help of lawyers from the Southern Center for Human Rights and the Davis Bozeman Law Firm, we are creating mechanisms to talk to the women and get their consent and assess the needs they will have upon release,” she said.
In addition to the money going to Sandra Bland’s family, the suit also provides new guidelines for Waller County jail to enact that could have saved Bland’s life.
In 2015, Sandra Bland was found dead in her cell in Texas after failing to come up with $500 for her release. Bland was pulled over in her car on July 10, 2015 by then-state trooper Brian Encinia for failing to signal a lane change in Waller County, about 50 miles northwest of Houston.