Update: Mama's Bail Out Day Raises Double Original Goal
A week before Mother’s Day, I saw #blackmamasbailout come across my social media feeds and thought about mothers and children separated from one another not only on Mother’s Day but also on every other ordinary day due to their lack of resources for bail. We mobilized quickly to award a $10,000 matching grant to VOCAL-NY’s Mama’s Bail Out NYC campaign to bail out Black moms in time for Mother’s Day. The campaign raised $66,100, more than double its goal of $30,000.
As of May 21st, VOCAL-NY has bailed out 15 mothers, with bails ranging from $750 to $10,500. Six are being prosecuted by the Brooklyn DA, and VOCAL-NY Communications and Development Director Andrea Bichan says that the organization still hopes to bail out two more mothers with funds from the campaign.
Mama's Bail Out NYC followed the lead of National Bail Out, which created Black Mama's Bail Out and has raised $440,000 to bail out Black moms nationwide.
Two of the mothers bailed out were pregnant; one was being held on five charges of shoplifting for a bail of $2001. Others experienced the challenges of an antiquated, inefficient process for paying bail even when volunteers showed up to pay. VOCAL-NY staff spent long days completing the process, sometimes staying until after midnight waiting for the women to be released. One volunteer was told that she wouldn't be helped because the person behind the window didn't feel like counting $10,500 worth of cash.
Because many of the women who have been bailed out are being charged with felonies, their cases could take months to resolve. Now, they are free to resolve their cases from outside of jail with the support of their families and communities. VOCAL-NY will also continue to offer support with its Participatory Defense program, a weekly event in Brooklyn that invites people with open cases to share practical knowledge and advice about navigating the criminal court system.
“Despite the system, all in all it's been an incredible project,” said Andrea. “We are hearing reports that it is among the most successful Mother's Day bailouts in the country!”
Truly, as I woke up on Mother’s Day to my two boys presenting me with handmade construction paper cards, it made that day infinitely more meaningful than flowers and chocolates to know that other mamas were getting kisses and snuggles from their kiddos instead of being separated in Rikers, and that others had heard the call and responded with such generosity of love and resources.