Racial justice activists have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to bail out black moms just in time for Mother's Day, Mother Jones reported Friday.
The National Black Mamas Bail Out Day has collected over $550,000 and is using it to bail out mothers who could not otherwise afford to see their families. According to Mother Jones, $25,000 has been set aside for women in several cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, Oakland, California, and 13 others.
Seventeen groups, including the national Black Lives Matter organization and the Movement for Black Lives, are participating, according to the fund's web site, with the intent to fight back against one of the criminal justice system's most entrenched — and increasingly criticized — tools.
"We can buy [mothers'] freedom and push against mass criminalization and modern bondage!" the group's website reads. "In the tradition of our enslaved black ancestors, who used their collective resources to purchase each other's freedom before slavery was abolished, until we abolish bail and mass incarceration, we're gonna free ourselves."
According to civil liberties group the ACLU, there are at least eight times as many women held in state and federal jails as in the year 1980, with the female jail population expanding from 12,300 then to 182,271 in 2002. Though black women make up just 13% of the population, they comprised roughly 30% of the women in jails.
As the prison population has increased, so too has the use of harsh bail penalties. The New York Times reported in 2015 the National Institute of Corrections estimates 500,000 people cannot pay bail on any given day, with many of those people waiting days or even weeks to be released despite not being found guilty of any crimes. In some jurisdictions like Baltimore, the Times reported, bail that is ostensibly for ensuring a defendant shows up on a court date is used punitively to punish people who haven't yet had a fair trial.
The effort has freed more than 50 mothers, according to Mother Jones. The amount of bail per mother varies considerably but runs into the hundreds at a minimum, with many held on bail in the thousands.
According to the Brooklyn Bail Fund, the average bail it pays in NYC is $910. Tanisha Bynum, a 25-year-old, pregnant mother of four who was assigned $10,000 bond in Florida for driving with a suspended license, told Time the effort will allow her to see her kids on Mother's Day, celebrate her son's third birthday and attend her daughter's kindergarten graduation.
"Those are milestones in my kids' lives," Bynum said. "I didn't want to miss them because of a traffic ticket."
Correction: May 13, 2017