Minhee Cho, Media Relations Associate
In March 2020, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights teamed up with community bail funds to accelerate a city-by-city campaign to free people from jails across the country. With the crisis intensifying—threatening to devastate local jails and their surrounding communities—our urgent work continues apace.
As Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, wrote in her March 26 op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times, “Cook Country Jail is a ticking time bomb for detainees during this pandemic … There is no luxury of time here. People in jail simply because they do not have financial resources should be released.”
RFK Human Rights’ aim is to take action where elected officials have failed to do so, stepping in to protect the poor, black and brown communities that have been unjustly targeted by the cash bail system and made particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. We anticipate that our emergency response efforts will bail out upwards of 200 people in more than 10 cities.
So far, we have partnered with eight community bail funds from the National Bail Fund Network—all of which have been working tirelessly to post bail and save lives: Safety and Freedom Fund at Operation Restoration in New Orleans, YWCA Community Bail Fund in Baton Rouge, Freedom Fund in Miami, Chicago Community Bond Fund, Northwest Community Bail Fund in Seattle, Minnesota Freedom Fund in Minneapolis, Vegas Freedom Fund, and Just City in Memphis. We've also teamed up with three nonprofit partners—Michigan Liberation, Mano Amiga and Faith in Texas—to expand our work into Detroit, Austin, and Dallas.
On October 1, 2018, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights launched the largest bail out action in a single city, posting nearly $1.2 million in bail to free 105 people. It was a collaborative effort made up of grassroots groups and formerly incarcerated people to free women and young people in New York City who were jailed because they could not afford to post bail. All in all, more than 1,200 New Yorkers took action in person and to contribute resources to free their neighbors from cages
The results: The large-scale bailout led to a dramatic drop in Rikers’ population, allowing the public to imagine closing the jails of Rikers Island to invest instead in communities. Ultimately, it led New York’s landmark bail reform law.