Filed under: Announcement, Event, Incarceration, Northeast, Police, White Supremacy
The Silent Barn
603 Bushwick Ave
Support a new community bail fund:
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O Great North
Nova The Wra!th
This June, at 22 years of age, Kalief Browder died. He did not die due to illness or tragedy. After three years of suffering in Rikers Island prison, two of them in solitary confinement, he took his own life to ease the mental anguish he had garnered from the prison system. Browders’ agony, humiliation, and suffering is standard fare for black people across New York City. Last winter, the Black Lives Matter movement, with their demands for dignity and an end to police abuse, propelled this issue into popular consciousness and it cannot be hidden again.
Today, that discussion must address the prison system. Kalief Browder, like many others at Rikers Island, had not been sentenced to jail time. He had never been convicted of any crime. He was simply being held at Riker’s awaiting trial because he could not afford bail. This is standard in New York City. Bails that appear relatively low: $250-1000 are impossibly high for many people. For Kalief Browder, three years of delayed trials ultimately ended with his case being dismissed. Requiring bail is a tactic used by the state: plead guilty to minor charge and avoid jail time (regardless if they committed this “crime” or not) or plead not guilty and be held indefinitely awaiting trial. Unwilling to plead guilty for a crime he did not commit and unable to pay his bail, Kalief was forced to endure not only the psychological trauma of being held in jail but also the physical beatings from both inmates and correctional officers.
A brief stay in prison typically ruins people’s already precarious lives due to work absence, non-payment of rent, eviction from shelters, and physical/emotional abuse while incarcerated. Unfortunately this is one of the only public cases; there are hundreds of others. With approximately 350,000 arraignments processed by New York City courts per year, cases are commonly delayed and lost.
We propose to establish a community bail fund to release those sitting in prison while awaiting trial. In honor of Kalief Browder, and to avoid another tragedy like this, we will begin this project by bailing out people who have been in Riker’s the longest.
Community bail funds have already had enormous success. For example, the Bronx Freedom Fund bailed out 200 people in a year and half, 50% of which had their charges dismissed. 96% of the people they bailed out returned for their court dates, which means that the money they used to bail out one person could eventually come back to the fund and be used to bail out someone else.
This fundraiser will provide the base amount of funds we need to begin this project. Once we have accumulated this relatively small amount of money, we will bail out the first person. As we raise more funds through shows like this, and as public knowledge about this fund grows, and as that same money returns to the fund, we will be able to bail out more and more people. This small seed will provide the means for many people over to maintain a reasonable amount of stability in their lives as they face petty charges.
As a society, we cannot allow one more person to meet the fate of Kalief Browder. This bail fund brings us a step closer to this reality.