‘An unjust system’: Philly advocates hold 24-hour bailout ahead of the holidays

Cash bail in Philadelphia disproportionately punishes poor people and people of color, advocates say.

Fred Ginyard just before entering the courthouse on December 20, 2022. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Fred Ginyard just before entering the courthouse on December 20, 2022. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

A group that advocates for the end of cash bail in Philadelphia is helping people get out of detention over the holidays.

The Philadelphia Bail Fund seeks to bail out a dozen people in a 24-hour period that began at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The goal is to prevent them from having to spend the holidays in detention.

The group is using donated funds to post bail for people who cannot afford to do so themselves.

Fred Ginyard, the bail fund’s director of organizing and community engagement, said the cash bail system has failed the people of Philadelphia, especially those who cannot afford to post the money they need to be released.

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“People who are presumed innocent pretrial are often held on hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash bail, and so they’re not able to be with their loved ones,” Ginyard said. “In particular, during the holiday season where it’s so important for our loved ones to be together, we want to do our part in bringing those folks home.”

He says the cash bail system is especially discriminatory against those who don’t have much money.

“The way that our bail system works is that if you are wealthy and commit a crime, and you can afford the bail that’s placed on you, you walk free for the same crime. If you are poor and you can’t afford that bail, you now sit in jail,” said Ginyard. “So this is an unjust system in Philadelphia that disproportionately punishes poor people and people of color.”

Ginyard said the group doesn’t have unlimited funds to post bail. In the 24-hour period, it only has enough to bail out about 12 people.

“We primarily focus on the first three days of someone that’s being held. And so we try and free people as soon as possible,” he said.

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Being held on cash bail without the ability to pay can also have a significant influence on the outcome of someone’s case, Ginyard said.

“When someone is arrested and held on bail, they’re nine times more likely to take a plea deal. Especially those with mental health issues or those who can lose their jobs, their homes,” he said. “So our goal is to prevent that.”

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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