CHICAGO — Activists who say too many poor people are unfairly languishing in U.S. jails because they can’t afford to post cash bail are increasingly deploying a new tactic: Bailing out strangers.
Community groups are collecting donations from individuals, churches, cities and other organizations in more than a dozen cities, including New York, Chicago, Seattle and Nashville, to bail out indigent prisoners. Though many bail funds are still in their infancy, they’ve freed several thousand people in the last few years, and the number is growing.
So far, the overwhelming majority of defendants still show up for court even when they have no money on the line, according to the groups. Once free, the defendants are better able to fight their case, often leading to charges being dropped or reduced.
“Many, many people are having their lives ruined pre-trial because they can’t afford to get out of jail,” said Max Suchan, who co-founded the …
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