The U.S. prison industry
currently holds 2.2 million people behind bars. Of that number, an
estimated 700,000 people sit in jails awaiting trials. They are locked
up because they are unable to post bail.
As more and more Americans
get ensnared in some aspect of mass incarceration, different projects
seek to rectify these hardships.
A popular new app, Appolition,
aims to direct users' spare change toward raising bail. Since its
rollout three weeks go, nine people have already been bailed out through
the crowdfunding app — that's three people per week!
How does the app work? According to Appolition's website,
it takes less than 60 seconds for a user to link their
debit/check/credit cards to this secure service that will also protect
your sensitive information.
Purchases are automatically rounded up to the nearest dollar "each
time you reach at least 50 cents in spare change." So, a charge of $3.52
would have $0.48 going toward Appolition's partner organization, National Bail Out, which posts bail for people who can't afford it.
If you sign up for the service, but grow short on funds yourself,
contributions can be "paused and resumed at any time." Users can keep
track of their contribution histories on a secure dashboard. Simple
enough, right? Much simpler than the incarceration process, to be sure.
National Bail Out works on bail cases up to $2,000 each. The idea
is that people are in better condition to engage the courts and attend
their trials when they are at home and able to continue to work and be
with loved ones. A few days in jail can cost people their homes, if they
miss paying rent, and their jobs — because they are unable to work and can get fired.
The brainchild of Dr. Kourtney Ziegler and Tiffany Mikell, the app is a convenient way to raise money for the bail cause.
This project piggybacks off Black Lives Matter issues. Since there is a
notable racial disparity among those unable to post bail,
African-Americans compose one group benefiting from new bail
The bail bonds industry issues $14 billion
in bonds each year. As the public becomes more informed about how bail
influences trial outcomes, more people are responding with their
Apparently, those experiencing pretrial detention
"are far more likely to plead guilty." Frequently, plea deals happen
because people are desperately attempting "to regain their freedom."
However, accepting plea deals can ultimately result in a sentence
More bipartisan efforts at bail reform are underway, as individual cases come to light. For example, according to Fox News,
in August 2016 the Department of Justice "filed a document to a Georgia
federal appeals court arguing that it's unlawful to jail someone who
can't afford their bail." This was in response to a Georgia man who was
"charged with a misdemeanor offense and spent six nights in jail because
he could not pay his $160 bail."
As long as jailed individuals are required to post bail, prison
reform efforts will engage bail as a political issue. The first rule of
order in jail support is that individuals are free to work and attend
court. Grassroots organizations and accompanying apps that crowdfund for
bail will be part of the new normal in prison reform circles.
Appolition's goal, according to Kourtney Ziegler, who Tweets as @fakerapper,
is to bail out 16 individuals every month. This is a modest goal, but
that is 16 more people who will see their children, work and spend time
with loved ones as they attend their trials.
Michelle R. Matisons, Ph.D., is an adjunct philosophy professor
and a freelance writer who lives in the Florida panhandle. She has
taught on several college campuses and is the author of numerous
articles on topics as diverse as emerging technologies, education, and
criminal justice issues. You can reach her at email@example.com.