Community groups host hearing to share stories about the perils of cash bail

Cherri Gregg
January 25, 2020 - 4:32 pm
Cash Bail Fund

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Several grassroots groups came together on Martin Luther King Day for a community hearing to share stories of the perils of cash bail. 

Around 200 people packed the sanctuary of the Bible Way Church in West Philadelphia to discuss the impact of cash bail and pre-trial detention on families. More than a dozen elected officials were in attendance, including Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner; Keir Bradford-Grey, chief of the Defender Association of Philadelphia; Councilmembers Derek Green, Jamie Gauthier and Helen Gym; and several others from both the city and state legislature. 

"This is what democracy looks like," the crowd chanted. 

The so-called "people's hearing" lent a microphone to those impacted by the system — individuals who could not afford cash bail, but were detained until the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund or the Philadelphia Bail Fund got them out. 

"My incarceration jeopardized my emotional and physical health. From the moment I was arrested, I was treated as if I was guilty," said one speaker. 

"It was humiliating it was demeaning, it was unfair," another person testified. 

William Bentley works for the Philadelphia Bail Fund and Youth Arts and Self-Empowerment Project. He says he was locked up pre-trial at 17 years old and put in adult jail under a $500,000 bail. 

"Nobody told me what was going on, where I was going. I didn't even know kids could be placed in jail until they shut the doors on my face," Bentley said. 

He's hoping that sharing his story and the stories of others will influence a positive change. 

"Even before this hearing today, the change, it's slow, but they are starting to hear us," he continued. 

So far, combined, the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund and the Philadelphia Bail Fund have posted nearly $1 million in local bails. The groups joined with others to organize the event.