National Mama’s Bail Out Day: Taking a Stance & Reuniting Families Torn Apart by the Criminal Justice System.

What is the best way to maintain contact between children and their incarcerated parents? To get them out of jail in the first place! As reported by the Huffington post, this week just before Mother’s Day the Black Lives Matter Movement created “National Mama’s Bail Out Day” to give mothers (queer, trans, immigrant, young, elder and disabled) the greatest give of all—the gift of being with their children instead of being held in jail simply because they cannot afford bail.

Each day the cost of bail is devastating for parents (of all genders), families, and communities across our nation. In California alone, it is estimated that over 60% of individuals are held on pretrial bail—meaning they haven’t been convicted of a crime, they just can’t afford bail. A recent report by Justice Policy Institute found that bail bond companies take billions from low-income people with no return on investment in terms of public safety, and instead, create added costs to communities.

National Mama’s Bail Out will allow at least 30 women nationwide to return to their families and communities. But this is more than a one-time action. On a deeper level the effort is challenging our criminal justice system with demands on the local, state and federal level to end to end use of money bail (and immigration bonds) and move towards criminal justice responses that restore the well-being of our communities. According to the Nation, the idea for the Mother’s Day bailout, came out of a January gathering of representatives from 25 black-led organizations that wanted to collaborate on bail reform. Importantly, the effort has historical roots in modeling the efforts made toward abolition of slavery. Their effort to not wait for judges, leaders, and politicians to change their policies and practices and to instead pull together collective financial resources to change the physical and material conditions of individuals who would otherwise be pulled into an unjust criminal justice system, is modeled after the historical effort of slavery abolitionists to buy their own and each other’s freedom.

Also, as displayed in the video for Mama’s Bail Out Day they are challenging the idea that it is okay to lock people away and they ask for measures that would help make our community whole:

“Our mamas are not disposable, we need them back in our communities, they bring us love justice, healing and compassion. Together we will bring them home. Our mothers deserve restorative justice, healing and reconciliation.”

Change is possible. On a local level, Santa Clara County in California already took measures to move away from the money bail system in response to community organizing and organizations such as Silicon Valley De-Bug in San Jose, California.

Even with threats and actions by our current administration to bring back the “War on Drugs” and harsher sentencing, we are seeing state leadership--and conservative leadership at that--moving in the right direction. Our leaders are listening to the community. From Georgia Governor Nathan Deal who signed a package of three bills that allows for alternatives such as probation and parole as well as supporting juveniles and reducing incarceration for low-level traffic offenses, to Oklahoma Governer Mary Fallin’s signing legislation that will increase alternatives to incarceration and decrease barriers for individuals returning to their communities.

For more information on bail reform, here is a quick video by Brave New Films and the California effort to end monetary bail.

To find out more about helping bring a mom home for mother’s day go to NOMOREMONEYBAIL.ORG.

Lillian M. Hewko, J.D.

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