Connecticut Bail Fund Fights for Justice
Working to end the criminalization of poverty.
|The back of the New Haven Community Correctional Center on Hudson Street in New Haven. Photo credit: Arnold Gold|
Justice is supposed to be blind. But that is not the experience of criminal defendants who are too poor to post bail.
The premise of bail is to ensure that criminal defendants show up for their court dates. People who cannot afford to post bail, however, can spend months in jail waiting for a trial. Many who face this prospect accept plea deals -- even when they are innocent. Those willing to contest their charges have much lower odds at building a strong case with adequate legal representation than defendants who can afford to post bail. They are also likely to endure additional punishments including the loss of their jobs, homes, and custody of their children. The Connecticut Bail Fund is a place where they can turn for help.
Founded in 2016, the Connecticut Bail fund posts bail for defendants who otherwise cannot pay, allowing them to fight their criminal charges from a position of freedom and return to their families and jobs. It also operates a weekly participatory defense meeting, a learning network where people fighting cases can build community, develop action plans to defend themselves in court, and collectively organize against mass criminalization. The Bail Fund also operates the Immigrant Bail Fund for Connecticut residents in federal ICE detention.
The Connecticut Bail Fund also advocates for criminal justice reform and specifically for the abolition of cash bail. During the 2017 legislative session, the Bail Fund successfully advocated for An Act Concerning Pretrial Justice, which prohibits judges from imposing money bail in nonviolent misdemeanor cases. The Bail Fund has seen little impact on reducing pretrial incarceration, however, because of carve-outs and judicial discretion. As a result, the organization is building up its advocacy work through its participatory defense network, which will serve as a hub for directly impacted people to become effective leaders, advocates, and community organizers.
The Community Foundation, as part of its strategy on incarceration and reentry, has supported the Connecticut Bail Fund since its inception. Among their reported outcomes, the Bail Fund's work prevented people from losing their homes and all of the people who received assistance were reunited with their families, preventing children from going into the Department of Children and Families system and other dependents from becoming homeless due to income loss and bail bonds payments. The Bail Fund also reported losing no money to bail forfeiture.
For more information about the Connecticut Bail Fund, visit its profile on giveGreater.org.
Did you Know?
One out of every three people behind bars today is held in a county or city jail. The U.S. jail population has tripled over the last 30 years, driven by an increase in pretrial detention and money bail, policies that keep legally innocent people behind bars before trial, and increase the likelihood that they will plead guilty. Prison Policy Institute.
This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.