An effort to bail African-American moms out of jails across the U.S., "Mama’s Bail Out Day," started on May 11 (video below).
Mary Hooks, co-director of the Atlanta-based Southerners on New Ground and one of the organizers of the nationwide bail out, told Democracy Now! about the effort to reunite moms of color with their families in time for Mother's Day:
We have set out with a vision and an intention to bail out as many black mamas as possible. We know that about 80 percent of black women that are sitting in cages right now are single parents and caretakers. We know that the one out of three black trans women who have spent time in the cage have experienced sexual violence in the cage. One out of nine black children have parents who are incarcerated.
And so, our goal is to be able to free our people from these cages, using the traditions from our ancestors that bought each other’s collective freedom, to get our folks back home and to highlight the crisis around the cash bail system, put pressure on all of these institutions who are making money off of our people’s suffering, but, most importantly, restore the life that this cash bail system have taken from our people.
Hooks also explained how the bail system discriminates against low income people who subsequently lose jobs, families and homes:
We have a system that says regardless if you don’t have money and you’re held pretrial, meaning you haven’t been convicted, you haven’t been tried, you haven’t told your story, if for some reason you don’t have enough money, you have to stay in the cage, and someone else who has money can pay money to get out.
You have to stay in the cage and await your trial. Now, obviously, in certain states, there’s a limitation on what a speedy trial looks like. But you look at cases like Kalief Browder -- right? -- who sat in a cage 360 of those days in solitary confinement for over two years awaiting trial.
And so we have folks who are sitting in cages, and, literally, after three days, after two days -- one day is enough -- who are losing their housing, their jobs, their children, because they cannot afford to pay the money in order to get out, be able to mitigate their cases and be able to show back up to court.
And so, we’re seeing up to 700,000 people daily languish in cages because they cannot afford bail. It is modern-day bondage. It is hostage. Our people are being held at ransom.
Arissa Hall, an organizer of the event and project manager at the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, told NBC News that a coalition of 25 groups raised about $400,000 in bail money:
We are recognizing how very masculine the conversation is around criminal justice in general and we wanted to expand that. We don't have a lot of conversations around the fact that women are the fastest growing jail population in the U.S.
African-American moms were reportedly bailed out in Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Memphis, Minneapolis, New York, Oakland, St. Louis, St. Petersburg, Florida, and Montgomery, Alabama.
"As we celebrate mothers and Mother's Day as an American holiday, historically black mothers and caregivers have not been celebrated, haven't been given the opportunity for celebration or even the title of motherhood," Hall added.
The Vera Institute of Justice reported in 2016 that black women comprise 44 percent of the U.S. jail population; the Annie E. Casey Foundation said over 5.1 million children have seen a parent go to jail at one point during their lives.