The National Bail Fund Network is a national project that works with organizers, advocates, and legal providers across the country that are using, or contemplating using, community bail funds as part of efforts to radically change local bail systems and reduce incarceration. The Network was established in September 2016 and is made up of over 40 community bail funds that use the regular payment of bail as well as strategic bail out actions in campaigns to end money bail and pretrial detention in both the criminal legal and immigration detention systems.
The Network was created in response to an increasing interest in replicating and expanding the bail fund model across the country. We saw the potential for the work of bail funds to be the tip of the spear for local and state policy reform within multi-pronged bail reform campaigns. In addition, we recognized that bail funds’ catalytic potential could be lost if they were created haphazardly and unconnected to campaigns to abolish money bail and pretrial detention. The Network is built upon the important work of bail funds assisting individuals attain their freedom while building community capacity and a coordinated advocacy force.
The National Bail Fund Network works with community bail funds that have been established across the country to counter the impact of mass incarceration as well as those created to meet the needs of specific communities or in response to specific organizing actions. A unifying principle across all of these bail funds, and one that guides the Network, is a belief that bail funds are a temporary intervention, not a permanent solution to the mass injustices embodied by the criminal legal system and the immigration detention system. We believe that bail funds can play a critical and immediate harm reduction role and have a long and important history as a way for communities to push back on an unjust system.
In addition to their day-to-day work of freeing people and upholding the presumption of innocence, we believe that bail funds can be a potentially catalytic tool in the fight to end money bail and that their connection to broader reform efforts is critical. As bail funds are contemplated as tools of resistance in comprehensive decarceration campaigns, the Network works with organizers and legal providers to learn from current and past bail fund models and to serve as a vehicle for experimentation and learning within larger movement strategy.
The National Bail Fund Network was hosted at the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund in its first two years. The Network is currently hosted at the Community Justice Exchange, a project of Tides.
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