Groups begin bailing out strangers to free poor from jail

FILE PHOTO In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, a sign is seen in the window of a bail bonds office across from the Hall of Justice in San Francisco. Two Harvard law school graduates are waging war against the time-honored cash bail bond system, saying it discriminates against poor people who don’t have homes to put up as security for getting out of jail.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

CHICAGO (AP) – Activists who say too many poor people are unfairly languishing in U.S. jails are increasingly deploying a new tactic: Bailing out strangers. Community groups are collecting donations from individuals, churches and other organizations in more than a dozen cities, and have bailed out several thousand people in the last few years. And so far, the overwhelming majority of defendants still show up for court even when they have no money on the line, according to the groups.

The bail funds are a step toward a larger goal for some legal reform activists: abolishing the cash bail system. Advocates say it creates two unequal tiers of justice: one for people who can afford bail and one for people who can’t.


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