The National Bail Fund Network is a new national project that works with organizers, advocates, and legal providers across the country that are using, or contemplating using, community bail funds as part of efforts to radically change local bail systems and reduce incarceration. The Network was established in September 2016 as a project of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund with the support of Open Philanthropy’s Criminal Justice Reform Project.
The Network was created in response to an increasing interest in replicating and expanding the bail fund model across the country. We saw the potential for the work of bail funds to be the tip of the spear for local and state policy reform within multi-pronged bail reform campaigns. In addition, we recognized that bail funds’ catalytic potential could be lost if they were created haphazardly. The Network is built upon the important work of bail funds assisting individuals attain their freedom while building community capacity and a coordinated advocacy force.
The National Bail Fund Network’s work has two core goals:
(1) To bring currently operating community bail funds, which function over a diverse set of models, together to share common knowledge and challenges; leverage data and experiences into local and national bail reform efforts; and work collectively to impact broader bail reform.
(2) To work with community organizers, legal practitioners, and funders to identify jurisdictions where the creation of bail funds can serve as part of a broader bail reform strategy; assess the feasibility and potential impact of new bail funds; and provide technical assistance and strategic thought partnership to newly forming funds.
The National Bail Fund Network works with community bail funds that have been established across the country to counter the impact of mass incarceration as well as those created to meet the needs of specific communities or in response to specific organizing actions. A unifying principle across all of these bail funds, and one that guides the Network, is a belief that bail funds are a temporary intervention, not a permanent solution to the mass injustices embodied by the criminal legal system. We believe that bail funds can play a critical and immediate harm reduction role and have a long and important history as a way for communities to push back on an unjust system.
In addition to their day-to-day work of freeing people and upholding the presumption of innocence, we believe that bail funds can be a potentially catalytic tool in the fight to end cash bail and that their connection to broader reform efforts is critical. As bail funds are contemplated as tools of resistance in comprehensive campaigns to end cash bail, the Network works with organizers and legal providers to learn from current and past bail fund models.
The National Bail Fund Network and the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund are proud partners of the National Mama's Bail Out Day action, coming up in May 2017.