We’ve dedicated $1,000,000 to community bail funds nationwide working with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation matching funds to help free our brothers, sisters & siblings threatened by COVID-19. The Funds for Freedom partnership will accelerate the work of local organizers to release people from jails where COVID-19 is impacting incarcerated populations at a devastating rate. Our mission to help has only grown more urgent as coronavirus cases continue to soar, particularly among those incarcerated.
“Our legal system unjustly criminalizes our Black and Brown communities, penalizing poverty under the guise of keeping our communities safe,” said our founder, Colin Kaepernick. “We must reimagine the current system and abolish wealth-based detention, freeing our brothers, sisters and siblings from a racist system.”
“Predatory cash bail is part and parcel of the institutionalized anti-Black racism that has plagued our country,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “This $1 million commitment from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp will empower community-led bail funds and accelerate their crucial work freeing people caged in our local jails, but our funding alone will never be enough. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ team of lawyers and advocates will work with local organizers to stop the aggressive policing and endless cycle of mass incarceration that have targeted poor and Black communities and move to end cash bail now.”
The Funds for Freedom partnership—expanding upon Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ Emergency Bail Out Action earlier this year—will start by targeting 10 cities across the country, immediately providing local organizers with the resources to release people caged in jails on unaffordable money bail as the threat of COVID-19 continues to rise behind bars. Matching grants - Our first round of funding dedicates $20,000 each to the following organizations.
Atlanta: Reverse the Cycle of Incarceration
Baton Rouge: YWCA Greater Baton Rouge
Detroit: Michigan Liberation
Fort Worth: United Fort Worth
Memphis: Just City
Miami: LGBTQ Freedom Fund
Nashville: Nashville Community Bail Fund
New Orleans: Safety and Freedom Fund
San Antonio: Texas Organizing Project
While some bail funds in larger cities have seen substantial increases in donations, many local efforts remain in need of additional support in this critical moment to rapidly decarcerate jail populations. Through careful research, the Funds for Freedom partnership will target and deploy resources to the most critical areas of need, including Fort Worth where the local jail has had deaths tied to the coronavirus as its jail population has grown.
“We knew that we had to act as a community to go in and get our people,” said Pamela Young, criminal justice lead organizer of United Fort Worth. “Because there are now two pandemics we’re fighting: COVID-19, and mass incarceration strengthened by unjust money bail practices—and unfortunately, the local powers that be have been reluctant to free people in light of either pandemic.”
“There is an urgency that I feel when it comes to getting people out of a cage. One hour, or two, or three in a jail cell—it can traumatize you for life, and the risks are even greater now with COVID-19 in jails across the nation,” said Rahim Buford, manager of the Nashville Community Bail Fund. “Of the 1,000 people we've freed since 2016, over half of those cases were ultimately not prosecuted. Had they stayed in jail, they would've more than likely pled guilty.”