Bail reform advocates increasingly are raising charitable funds they use to put up bail for defendants too poor to pay their way out of jail, says The Marshall Report. These funds have sprung up in recent years in cities that include Boston, Brooklyn, Nashville, and Seattle. Similar funds are currently being explored in St. Louis, Miami, Cincinnati, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Austin. Because bail is returned if a defendant meets his court obligations, bail funds can be used repeatedly to bail out more people. “Our overall goal is to end money bail,” said Sharlyn Grace of the Chicago Community Bond Fund, which has paid roughly $160,000 to release more than 30 people.
One potential entry into the bail fund is the American Bail Coalition, a trade group for insurance companies that underwrite bail. Critics of bail suspect the fund, if it happens, is part of a public relations campaign to soften the industry’s image and slow the pace of serious reforms. “The insurance companies think if they do a bail fund, that will slow down the progress of eliminating money, because then they can say, ‘Look, we don’t need bail reform, we’re making progress through bail funds,’” said Tim Schnacke, a bail critic. “A national bail fund sponsored by the bail bondsman?” said Cherise Fanno Burdeen of the Pretrial Justice Institute. “That’s like a free sample of heroin from a drug dealer.”