“A Salute to Momma’s (BailOut) Day!”
By Abigail McGrath
In the second grade in Mrs. Aranol’s class at P.S. 67 in Brooklyn, we all made Mother’s Day cards to take home. We fashioned paper carnations out of red crepe paper and glued them to a piece of cardboard.
A couple of kids had pink carnations, one had white, and one didn’t put any on her card. I later found out that the mother of the little girl with the white carnation had died. The mother of the little girl with no carnation was in jail, and she did not know if her mother was alive or dead. She had not spoken to her for “a long, long time”. One day her mother walked out of the house to go to work, got arrested, and never returned home. The little girl’s grandmother picked her up from school. Because her mother could not make bail, she stayed in jail from that moment until trial, through the trial and through her sentence. Her mother’s letters were not being forwarded to her. Her mother was in solitary confinement, had no visitation rights and no phone calls. She was arrested for being a political activist. She claimed that she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her court-appointed lawyer didn’t even believe her. Her mother was black. Twenty years later, due to a progressive program, and DNA, the mother was released. My friend was a grown woman by now.
What could be worse than being in jail for something you didn’t do? Being buried alive; seeing the scratching of nails inside wooden coffins; the scratching of those trying to get out; the scratching of mothers trying to get to their babies can give you the same shivers.
Being totally paralyzed and unable to move or talk while listening to those around you decide your fate and the fate of your child is also pretty ghastly.
Being jailed for something you did not do and separated from your children just because you are not wealthy is not very different. You haven’t even been declared guilty. Telling the jailers that you are innocent is like talking to wool. Why should they care? It’s not their job to care. It’s your job to get the money and make the bail.
Neither jails nor prisons are crime deterrents, yet we still have them. Jails have been around since day one nevertheless, we have criminal acts. The prisons of the bible’s Old Testament, which were used for indigent detainees, those who couldn’t make bail; did not do a whit of good. Joseph was imprisoned in Egypt for something he did not do. Debtor’s prison held people until they paid their debt; “stay til you pay.”
Jails were pretty much ineffective in bringing about change in a person then, as they are now. They have not brought down the crime rate one iota.
About 3,000 people go to jail every day in America. The majority of them are guilty of being too poor to make bail.
I’m not talking about whether or not the bail system should be overhauled now that we are in a more compassionate “woke” society. I’m talking about women (not the crazy, killer ones) who simply do not have the money to post bail.
I’m talking about Mamma Bail Out for Mother’s Day in May, an extraordinary effort to humanize the system which has enslaved so many of us for so long.
“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” Is a worthy quote and a realistic, if somewhat harsh, outlook on the criminal justice system. However, if you do the time for the crime, which you did not commit just because your case hasn’t come up for the trial and you don’t have the bail money… that’s an even more egregious error on the scales of justice.
The number of folks in jail has grown by 500% since 1980. Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to make that growth even greater by trying to resurrect the racist “War on Drugs.” A “War on Drugs” is a war against poor people, a war on crime is a war against poor people. Rich people don’t sell drugs; they buy them. Rich people can hire expensive lawyers should they get caught in a crime. “White-collar crime is not all that bad.” It will be interesting to see how that war on drugs will proceed now that opioids are the current flavor of the month of the white middle class.
Is it me, or doesn’t it seem odd that simple possession of a class B drug (cocaine) is a misdemeanor while crack cocaine is a felony?
Could that be because many if not most of the lawmakers in Washington have some personal experience with cocaine?
The real crime here is decaying in jail simply because you cannot afford bail. That is a crime against democracy.
“Innocent until proven guilty” has no meaning for the poor.
One minute in jail can destroy a person for a lifetime; they can lose their job, their housing, and their children.
It is not just that the target is poor people. The target is black and brown people, and the statistics prove it.
Black people are over two times more likely to be arrested for the same crime as others. This is not an economic or social divide; this is clearly a racial divide.
Once arrested, Blacks are twice as likely to be caged before trial. The statistic for transgender women is worse. One in five, that’s 20% of transgender women, have been incarcerated.
According to the Vera Institute of Justice, the number of women in jails throughout the nation has increased l4 fold. In 1970 there were fewer than 8,000 women in jail, today, there are nearly 110,000. 82% of them are in custody for nonviolent offenses.
“Our people are dying at the hands of police or a slow death that happens while they’re awaiting trial in court whether that’s physical death, the loss of peace of mind and mental health or the jobs, houses, children and all of the other collateral damage that our people are experiencing because they are only too poor to pay their bail,” says Mary Hooks, co-director of Southerners on New Ground, an Atlanta-based regional organization.
According to a 2016 Vera Institute of Justice Report, “Black women are 44 percent of the nation’s jail population, and almost 80 percent of the women in jail have young children”. Also, more than 5.1 million children have had a parent in prison or jail at some point in their life, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Many times, especially in California, people who cannot pay bail are encouraged to plead guilty in order to be released.
Take the case of Sarah J. and Daria M.
They were in a car with a friend who committed some robberies. Neither was a part of the robbery. Both were arrested and held with high bail even though neither had a prior criminal record. Daria’s family could make the bail. Sarah’s could not. Sarah stayed in jail for three months until the prosecutor offered her a time-served deal which she accepted just to get out even though it meant pleading guilty to two serious offenses with long probation, a seven-year suspended sentence, and no chance for dismissal like Daria, who was charged with exactly the same “crime” and dismissed.
Okay, so we have established that it all has to do with money, and those without it are screwed.
So, what can you do?
You can donate to the National Bail Fund. You can buy a little chunk of freedom for some mother who is locked up in a cage right now.
It is the gift that keeps on giving because most of the time, the bail money is returned and recycled to make bail for another needy inmate.
You can also sign up for Appolition. Appolition is a digital tool that enables you to give your spare change from purchases to National Bail Out.
Who is National Bail Out?
According to their website “The National Bail Out collective is a formation of Black organizers who are committed to building a community-based movement to end pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration. We are working to end systems of mass incarceration and support our communities.”
For more information about the National Bail Outs you can email: email@example.com.
Almost 200 people have been released on bail during the last year.
National Black Bail Out is not the only agency involved. There is a coalition of 25 groups across the country who have organized National Momma’s Bail Out Day to bring attention to ways in which the criminal justice system and the bail process are disproportionately affecting black mothers.
You can join them now. Be a part of “Mamma’s Bail Out Day”. You can help bail mothers out of jail and be home by this Mothers Day. Don’t worry; they will be back in jail on Monday.
Human Rights Watch found, in six California counties, that black people are booked into jail and thus held pretrial at considerably higher rates than any other group. Human Rights Watch also found that pretrial custody pressures people to plead guilty, regardless of actual guilt, just to get out of jail. I know I said that before, but I just can’t say it enough.
The residual effect of having “yo momma” in jail is significant, according to Breena Willingham, PhD at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.
“What it’s doing really is breathing life back into the children who are suffocating without having their mothers with them because of jail,” she said. “When a mother goes to jail, it’s not just her that’s being impacted. The children of these incarcerated mothers do the worse time because they’re without their primary caregivers. A program like this isn’t just about paying bail for the sake of paying bail; it’s about giving life back to these children.” If only for one day.
Women are being bailed out in cities all over the nation. Look for a bailout program in your area. In Brooklyn, contact: Arissa Hall, a National Mama’s Bail Out Day organizer at the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund.
According to Mary Hooks, co-director of the Atlanta-based, Southerners on New Ground, “Folks were so grateful, and some women were weeping. Some women had been in a cage for months and were non-responsive and overwhelmed even though they knew that this was happening. I don’t think they realized how much love was in the community for them.”
Show some love for our community…bail a momma out.