Coalition gives the gift of freedom for Mother's Day

Movement aims to end pre-trial detention

Cherri Gregg
May 08, 2018 - 3:59 pm
Advocates for National Black Mama's Bail Out Day wait outside Stout Center for Criminal Justice.

Cherri Gregg | KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Just before Mother's Day, a coalition of community groups is giving more than a dozen women the gift of freedom.

"We're in the process of posting bail for 15 Black women and they will be released in a number of hours," explained Cara Tratner outside the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice. Tratnor is an organizer with the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, which includes a coalition of groups that are a part of a national effort to end cash bail and pre-trial detention. 

National Black Mama's Bail Out Day, as it is called, takes place the week before Mother's Day, in an effort to bail out Black mothers who would otherwise spend the day in a cell simply because they cannot afford bail.

"They've been in there some as short as four days, and the person who's been in there the longest has been in there over a year," said Tratner, who notes that the fund will post bail as high as $5,000 for individuals.

"I work paycheck to paycheck — so no, I don't have $5,000 stashed away," added Iyo Bishop. 

Bishop was unable to post bail for an assault charge and spent 78 days in prison until the Community Bail Fund bailed her out. Even though the charges were eventually dropped, Bishop said she lost her car, home and job while she was in jail and had to start over.

"Everybody who gets incarcerated, we are not bad people," she said. "We are human beings, and I appreciate these strangers — people I had never met — helping me."

"You're being treated as if you're guilty before your case is even through," echoed Veronica Rex, a mother of four and grandmother of 12 who was charged with aggravated assault last fall.

Instead of paying 10 percent of her $50,000 bail, Rex's family paid a defense attorney. She sat in jail for months until the Community Bail Fund got her out.

"I didn't even know it was going to happen that fast," she recalled. "I met her on a Monday, I was home by Friday."

Also while inside, Rex lost her job.

"Luckily I had someone at home paying my bills so I have a place to go home to," she noted, "but you lose a lot." 

"We're trying to highlight that especially Black women are incarcerated at extremely high rates," Tratner said. "When they are torn from their family — as mothers and caregivers — it is an extreme harm to the community."

Tratnor said some women have spent months in prison with bails as low as $300. 

So far, the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund has raised $60,000 — their goal is $75,000 — through hundreds of small donations.

The money will be used to bail out men and women who cannot afford bail. Once the individuals' cases are resolved, the money — minus the 30 percent charge by the city — will return to the fund to help others who are incarcerated pre-trial and have bails that are $5,000 or less.

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