RFK Human Rights and Texas Partners Free People From Jail as Coronavirus Spreads


New York (April 15, 2020)—Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has expanded its #MassBailOut campaign, partnering with Mano Amiga and Faith in Texas to swiftly and responsibly release people from jails in Dallas and Hays County to help flatten the curve as the coronavirus threat intensifies.

Not only are jails dangerously overcrowded—making social distancing impossible—and low on necessary hygiene resources as basic as soap, but because they are short-term facilities, more than 200,000 people flow in and out of them every week. This constant churn makes jails potent incubators for COVID-19, enabling the spread of the virus to everyone on site, including guards and staff, as well as to the general public.

Most people caged in our jails have not been convicted of a crime; they simply cannot afford to pay their bail. They are mothers, fathers, grandparents, neighbors. And they are trapped in jail as COVID-19 approaches because they don’t have the $1,000 or even $100 (and sometimes as little as $25) needed to buy their freedom—and with it, the safety of sheltering at home with family.

“What’s happening on Rikers Island, and in New York overall, is a blaring wake-up call, showing us how much worse this crisis will get if we don’t immediately empty our jails,” said Wade McMullen, senior vice president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “Unfortunately, state officials are dragging their feet, failing to take lifesaving action at the very moment when we can still make a difference. Their failure to free legally innocent people who are jailed pretrial on unaffordable money bail demonstrates the brokenness and inhumanity of our so-called ‘justice’ system.”

With the expansion, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and its partners will have helped free more than 215 individuals across nine states, sparing them from having to endure the horrors of pretrial detention and needless exposure to the coronavirus simply because they didn’t have enough money to make bail.

“The cash bail system unjustly punishes the poor, subjecting them to days, weeks, if not years behind bars on unproven charges purely because they can’t afford their freedom,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “COVID-19 urgently magnifies the steep price of pretrial detention and we, as a human rights organization, won’t stand idly by in the face of such abuse.”

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues, pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.