The Bail Project, a national effort to bail poor and low-income people out of jail, on Tuesday launched “Bail Out the South,” the next phase of its plans to secure freedom for thousands of people over the next few years, reports the Associated Press. Although larger criminal legal systems throughout the country have begun doing away with cash bail for certain low-level, nonviolent offenses, the South continues to have the highest jail incarceration rates and the starkest racial disparities among those imprisoned pretrial. The national Bail Project, which helps low-income defendants get out of jail by bailing them out as their criminal cases progress through the courts, was founded three years ago, following a successful 10-year campaign in New York City.
Data collected over that 10-year period shows that 95 percent of people helped by the project returned to court for every appearance. It also showed that, when people could get out of jail, the majority were ultimately not convicted of a crime. Since its launch in 2018, the Bail Project said it has paid $41 million to bail out more than 15,500 people in over 24 cities. TThe organization claims that, when ranked by state, seven of the 10 states with the highest incarceration rates in the U.S. are in the South, where Blacks bear the brunt of incarceration. Of all Blacks in jail in the U.S., nearly half are in Southern jails where they are also saddled with fines and court fees that can lead to reimprisonment unpaid, the Bail Project said. According to recently published papers on criminal justice reform policies by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, both nonpartisan think tanks, pretrial release and sentencing policies continue to be root causes of mass incarceration in the United States.