Our Voices

Exclusive: COVID Threat Triggers Jail Bailouts

As jails prove to be dangerous hot spots for the coronavirus, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has partnered with community bail funds and local organizers across the country, including Just City in Memphis, Tennessee, to free as many people from pretrial detention while we could still save lives.

For Josh Spickler, executive director of Just City, the initiative is one way to immediately address the injustices of cash bail, a system that punishes the poor by keeping many nonviolent people behind bars on unproven charges because they can’t afford to buy their way out.

On his most recent visit to the local Shelby County Jail, Spickler bailed out the initiative’s first five people, including Royester Murrell, 26, who had been imprisoned since February 5 on a $100 bond he couldn’t afford. Spickler plans on using the $50,000 from RFK Human Rights, along with another $25,000 from an anonymous donor, to continue bailing out people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 in the tight confines of the jail.

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