Brooklyn Community Bail Fund — National Bail Fund Network

Organization Name 
Award Date 
10/2017
Grant Amount 
$404,800
Purpose 
To support the National Bail Fund Network.
Topic (focus area) 

Published: October 2017
Grant investigator: Chloe Cockburn

This page was reviewed but not written by the grant investigator. Brooklyn Community Bail Fund staff also reviewed this page prior to publication.

The Open Philanthropy Project recommended a grant of $404,800 to the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund (BCBF) to support its National Bail Fund Network, led by Pilar Weiss. The Network is comprised of bail funds around the country—including immigration and movement-oriented funds as well as more traditional community-based funds engaging with local criminal justice systems—which pay bail for defendants who cannot otherwise afford to pay bail. On average, 60% of people sitting in jails, sometimes for weeks and months at a time, have not yet been convicted of a crime, and many are there largely because they cannot afford to pay bail.1 Bail fund interventions allow defendants to return home rather than going to jail while awaiting trial, removing the pressure for defendants to plead guilty just to get out of jail, thereby reducing the number of guilty pleas and staving off other harms caused by pre-trial detention.

Our Program Officer for Criminal Justice Reform, Chloe Cockburn, believes that organizing and advocacy in partnership with bail funds can help increase media attention and shift public support in favor of needed policy reforms, as well as put pressure on local systems to change practices. She does not endorse the idea of bail funds as being institutionalized as an alternative to current criminal justice system practices, but rather as a useful tactical device that can assist campaigns while also reducing the number of people sitting in jails prior to their convictions.

We previously supported BCBF with a grant in 2016, and were pleased with achievements over the last year including: the launch of six bail funds; hosting a national convening; and supporting the “Mama’s Bail Out Day” campaign, which was produced by a broad coalition of organizations who worked together to bail over 100 mothers out of jail. BCBF served as a fiscal sponsor and provided other strategic and administrative support for organizations involved with the campaign, which raised more than $1,000,000 from the public through crowdfunding activities.

BCBF plans to use our renewal funding to support the following goals:

  • Continue to develop the National Bail Fund Network as a useful and energetic networking and strategic planning space.
  • Support creative and impactful tactical bail out interventions.
  • Produce and disseminate analysis on community bail funds and bail out actions.
  • Launch new community justice pilots with members of the National Bail Fund Network.
  • Provide technical assistance, strategic planning, and fundraising support for new and emerging bail funds.
  • Serve as connector across the bail reform organizing space.

This is a discretionary grant, and falls within our focus area of criminal justice reform.

Sources

Document Source
NY Times, The Bail Trap, 2015 Source (archive)
  • 1. “Of those in jails, 60 percent haven’t been convicted of anything. They’re innocent in the eyes of the law, awaiting resolution in their cases. Some of these inmates are being held because they’re considered dangerous or unlikely to return to court for their hearings. But many of them simply cannot afford to pay the bail that has been set.” NY Times, The Bail Trap, 2015