Sustain the Bail Fund!
WHO WE ARE/WHAT WE DO
Decarcerate Western Mass Bailout Project is part of Decarcerate Western Mass, an abolitionist group organizing for decarceration in Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties in Massachusetts.
Donations you make are used to bail out people from our county jails. Lawyers of defendants fill out our referral form to request bail support. Once people show up for their court hearings and their case is finalized, we get the money back and can continue to cycle it through to get more people out.
We started posting bails locally in February 2021 in response to urgent need coming out of the Hampden County Jail. Decarcerate Western Mass has been in ongoing contact with folks on the inside at the Hampden County Jail, and the stories they have been sharing are grim.
In addition to continuing abuses occurring in the jail, there have been significant COVID-19 outbreaks among inmates. More than 10% have tested positive. It's a public health crisis.
There are reports that many staff have not been following public health protocols to protect incarcerated people from infection. In addition, the COVID crisis has been exploited in order to implement heavily restrictive lockdown measures, including excessive use of force and retaliation against individuals protesting conditions inside the jail. This is compounded by the ongoing and well-documented problems of inadequate food, insufficient mental health support, and a lack of affordable (or free) ways to communicate with loved ones.
WHY POSTING BAIL MATTERS
People who are being held in jail because they cannot afford to pay bail have not been convicted of a crime. Unless they have enough money to buy their freedom, they can be held for weeks, months, or sometimes even years in “pretrial detention” until their cases are heard.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, nearly half a million people in the U.S. are currently being detained pretrial, a disproportionate number of whom are poor and working class BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).
In the Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden County jails, there are over twice as many people being detained pretrial as after sentencing.
This is unjust and inhumane. People who are in jail, waiting for their case to be resolved, risk losing their jobs, their homes, and their children. They also risk their health (physical and mental) and, especially in the age of COVID, they may be risking their life.
By posting bail, we are working for pretrial justice.
Posting bail allows people to stay free while their case is being resolved, keeps them in their community and with their families. Cases in which people are not held pretrial have statistically better outcomes for defendants.
Posting bail is a decarceration strategy that seeks to reduce the number of people detained in local jails. It is also a direct response to the hyper-policing and incarceration of a disproportionate number of working class people of color in our region.