Crowdfunding, once the province of people raising money for things like trendy coffee makers, classroom supplies, or medical treatments, has become a tool for dealing with the criminal justice system, the Marshall Project reports. It's not uncommon to find requests for bail money, legal fees, fines, or to underwrite payments for expert witnesses. With varying levels of success, crowdfunders share stories online with friends, family, and strangers through social media, hoping to raise hundreds or thousands of dollars. Some have surprising success. Shawn Johnson, a 27-year-old Army veteran, raised $2,000 in less than a week to pay off a DUI fine. Though he knew everyone who contributed, some donors surprised him. A DJ at a club where he once worked gave $150. “I know the guy. I've talked to the guy, but I didn't think we were close like that,” he says.
Some crowdfunding pages have gone viral. An Indiegogo fundrdaiser for Bree Newsome, who pulled down the Confederate flag in front of the South Carolina State House this year, took in $125,705 toward bail and legal defense for her and other Black Lives Matter activists. A campaign run by Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for the family of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last year, raised $316,194 in just three weeks after his death. Other pleas go nowhere, in part because the fundraiser's community is also poor, and because the campaigns get little attention from strangers.