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Freedom Summer Initiative pushes to end bias bail system

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 9/16/2018, 11:25 p.m.
As part of the Freedom Summer Initiative, a month-long effort to release community members being held in jail simply because ...
The hands of a Black male youth in juvenile detention as he is cuffed for transportation. Associated Press

Special to The Dallas Examiner

As part of the Freedom Summer Initiative, a month-long effort to release community members being held in jail simply because they could not afford bail, Faith in Texas attempted to bail out 17 people Aug. 24 so they could be reunited with their families, keep their jobs and continue contributing to their communities. The group, a multi-racial, multi-faith movement for economic and racial justice, is pushing for Dallas County to end the use of cash bail, which it states disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities and criminalizes poverty.

However, as members of the group arrive with checks for each person’s bail, representatives reported that they encountered a “bizarre stall tactic” when the Dallas County jail clerk refused to accept the checks to release the residents stuck in jail. Therefore the group had to rush to the bank before it closed and return to the jail with $21,000 in cash for the bailouts.

“Our mission toward equity in our local justice system is clear – to continue to invite elected officials in Dallas County to adopt pro-immigration and criminal justice reform policies that center on the most vulnerable and under-prioritized members of our community,” said Faith in Texas LIVE FREE Organizer Brittany White. “No member of our community should be held in prison simply because they cannot afford to buy their release.”

This month-long bail out initiative, led by the LIVE FREE Campaign, is in partnership with the Community Bail Fund of North Texas, with support from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Fund II Foundation. The campaign is working to bring an end to mass incarceration, community violence, and the systemic oppression of Black, Brown and low-income people by the criminal justice system. Steps towards this include passing robust Fair Chance Hiring and Housing policies, passing policies that end arrests for low-level, non-violent misdemeanors and scaling down mass incarceration in the state of Texas.

Last month, Faith in Texas representatives said it led Dallas County District Attorney candidates Faith Johnson and John Creuzot on a tour of the Sanders Estes Prison where they discussed the critical need for criminal justice reforms, including ending the use of cash bail.

Dallas County’s over-reliance on incarceration and wealth-based punishment exacts enormous financial, emotional, and social costs on people of color while making communities less safe, according to the group. Texas has the seventh highest incarceration rate in the country and incarcerates more people than any other state, according to an analysis by the Prison Policy Institute. Furthermore, Dallas County incarcerates people at a rate that outstrips both the United States national average and Texas as a whole. Across the state, Black people are incarcerated at nearly four times the rate of white people and receive significantly higher bail amounts. So, although they are only 12 percent of the population, Black people make up 32 percent of the incarcerated population.

Donations from Friendship West Baptist Church, the TEA Fund, and the Afiya Center aided the group in providing each person being released on bail with a $25 gift card, a hygiene pack and food cards. The TEA Fund and Metrocare also provided a social worker and other support services.

The month-log initiative culminated Aug. 31 with the Freedom Summer: Black August Bailout Event, which celebrated the return of community members and further amplify the conversation around the much-needed reform in the criminal justice system.