While some people shell out to take Mom to brunch on Mother’s Day or ignore it as a “Hallmark holiday,” a coalition of groups in Philadelphia is marking the occasion by raising money to bail women with children out of jail.
It’s part of National Mama’s Bail Out Day, a crowd-funding effort that started in Atlanta to call attention to how the cash bail system affects low-income people, especially women of color with children. The campaign has spread to other cities, including Philadelphia, Oakland, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Minneapolis.
Local organizer Hiram Rivera with the Philadelphia Student Union said the effort got underway in less than two weeks, so the coalition started small, hoping to raise $6,000 over the course of the week.
“We met that and exceeded that by $4,000 the first day,” Rivera said. “So we upped it to $10,000 because the more money we have, the more women we can bail out, and it just keeps growing and growing and growing.”
As of Friday afternoon, the Philadelphia groups had raised more than $30,000 from about 660 people.
On Saturday, organizers will head to Riverside Correctional Facility Saturday, hoping to bail out 15-20 women in time to reunite with their families on Mother’s Day. Any money left over will go to help others next week. The Defender Association of Philadelphia has been assisting the groups in identifying women willing to participate.
“I think it’s an overwhelming condemnation of the bail system that so many people are eager to give money,” said Sarah Morris, executive director of the Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project and leader of the No 215 Jail Coalition, which has been pushing to end Philadelphia’s cash bail system.
There can be serious repercussions for people, especially women, who are stuck behind bars before their trials because of their inability to pay. Research has shown pretrial inmates are more likely to plead guilty and to commit new crimes in the future.
Morris told the story of one woman who was released in January after three years on $10,000 bail.
“If she had had $1,000, she could have gotten out,” Morris said. “And she was a mother, and she lost custody of her kids at that time and lost a lot of connections and support.
“At the end of those three years … the charges were dismissed,” she said.
The coalition plans to help the women released on Saturday with housing, job training and other supports.