Today, the National Bail Out Collective (NBO) announces its fifth annual Black Mama’s Bail Outs initiative—and the second to take place during COVID-19—to “free[] as many Black mamas and caregivers as possible so that they can come home” and spend Mother’s Day with their families.

NBO “is a Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support [Black] folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration.” They are a group of “people who have been impacted by cages – either by being in them [themselves] or witnessing [their] families and loved ones be caged.”

This initiative is spearheaded by previously incarcerated Black mothers. Since its creation in 2017, NBO has made payments to free over 500 Black mothers from prison, jail, and immigrant detention centers through the work of local advocacy groups nationwide in over a dozen cities including Atlanta, Kansas City, Memphis, and Philadelphia. NBO is accepting donations for this movement.

According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, “since 1991, the number of children with a mother in prison has more than doubled, up 131%.” When race is taken into account, the numbers are even more dismal—the U.S. Department of Justice reports that Black women are incarcerated at a higher rate than their white counterparts, 113 per 100,000 compared to 51 per 100,000. Even though Black women only account for approximately 6% of the population in the U.S., they comprise 22% of the population of incarcerated women. Another report catalogues a woman’s likelihood of imprisonment during her lifetime: 1 in 111 white women, compared to 1 in 45 Latinx women, and 1 in 18 Black women. Just Security has dubbed this phenomenon the “New Jane Crow.”

In addition, bail is frequently used as a tactic of coercion for people to plead guilty. When someone is locked up, most will have to pay a cash bail fee in order to be released. Unfortunately, those who cannot afford to pay the cash bail remain incarcerated. The Commonwealth Fund has stated that “research suggests racial bias against Black defendants plays a part in the level of bail set by the court…The cash bail system disproportionately impacts people of color, fueling a pervasive problem of structural racism in our criminal justice system. The pretrial population is disproportionately Black and Hispanic and has more than doubled over the past 15 years.”

“In the absence of government action to reduce the incarcerated population, NBO, Color Of Change, and other partners have raised more than $1 million [last year] to post bail for hundreds of incarcerated Black mothers and caregivers,” as stated in a press release for the initiative. They have raised over $5 million since their inception, according to the press release.

NBO also provides resources and social support services, including housing and transportation assistance, fellowship programs, and employment opportunities after the mothers are released. NBO’s Arissa Hall said, “we recognize that our people have needs. We wanted to support our folks and we felt it was irresponsible to just bail folks out and be like, ‘Okay, cool!’ You’re bailed out. That’s it! We wanted to make sure our folks were not vulnerable to rearrest and re-incarceration. That meant to provide the services that, unfortunately, the state is not providing.”

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