Black Mama’s Day Bailout Frees Black Mothers — and Fights Racist Bail System

Yesterday was the second year of the Black Mama’s Day Bailout: an incredible coordinated effort by Black organizers from the National Bail Out Collective to free incarcerated Black mothers and caregivers to celebrate Mother’s Day with their families and to call attention to the inhumane practice of money bail.

Southerners on New Ground (SONG) has spearheaded the #FreeBlackMamas movement — freeing 100 Black women from jail and drawing national attention to the movement to end money bail and pretrial detention that keeps poor Black people in (very profitable) cages simply because of an inability to pay. The practice has a devastating ripple effect on families and communities of color, causing people to lose their jobs and housing, traumatizing their children, and leading to further criminalization and incarceration.

Almost 80 percent of the women in prison are mothers. Returning them to their families and communities is a vital way to intervene in the destruction caused by the criminal/prison system while pushing a broader vision of change — shutting down jails and prisons, dismantling the police, and providing the social and community supports that marginalized people need to survive.

Building on the momentum of last year’s bailout, the National Bail Out Collective has worked to free at least 50 black mothers and caregivers this year so far in 19 cities across the Southeast, including Kansas City, Missouri, Asheville, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee. And formerly incarcerated Black women — including folks that SONG bailed out — are shaping the evolution of the movement.

One effort this year has focused on community-building to find and free Black trans and gender non-conforming mamas and caregivers, who are often made invisible in jails and are at extreme risk of violence from guards. Another is focusing on getting people out of the mass incarceration system — and keeping them out in the first place through community services.

Organizers from SONG Atlanta said:

SONG calls for policy changes informed by the previous bailouts, and its direct work with women suffering at the hands of the local court and legal system. In order to disrupt cycles of recidivism and mass incarceration, SONG calls for jurisdictions—including Atlanta and Fulton County—to (1) Invest in systematic improvements shown to increase people’s attendance at court, such as reminder systems, the ability to reset court dates, and the transportation assistance; and (2) Invest in community-based and -controlled social service, including affordable housing, healthcare, mental health, employment, and other services that reduce homelessness, poverty and criminalization.

Even in places like Charlottesville, VA that have abolished cash bail, courts still regularly detain Black women because of an inability to pay bond (usually a percentage of the overall bail paid by a private company in the form of a loan, which sends poor Black people spiralling into debt) — and SONG organizers are finding creative ways to fight back through community court support, letter writing, and jail visits.

Actions like the Black Mama’s Day Bailout ask those of us in the free world to not only believe intellectually in the fight against prisons and money bail, but to put our money and our commitments where our mouths are to support Black liberation everywhere. As the National Bailout Collective says, “We are committed to building a community-based movement to end pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration. The Mama’s Day action is rooted in the tradition of our enslaved ancestors who went to every length, including harnessing their collective resources, to purchase each other’s freedom and keep their families together.”

To get involved, please donate and visit nomoremoneybail.org.

Image credit: Black Mamas Day Bailout Fund from Baltimore Action Legal Team

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