Before defendants ever get to see their day in court, most times they are taken to jail where a judge then determines whether or not that defendant is able to post bail. Bail ensures that a defendant is likely to return to their determined court hearings in order to have their money returned to them. Those of means are most often able to get out the same day as their arrest, depending upon the crime allegedly committed. For those who struggle with poverty, however, that bail may never be posted, leaving them to languish in a jail cell for weeks, months, and even years until a court determines whether or not they are guilty of a crime.
Defendants who fail to post their bail are not only punished for a crime they may not have committed but also face other consequences such as job loss which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and loss of parental rights, again, before ever proving that a defendant is guilty of the crime in question. Fortunately, this glaring oversight in the U.S. justice system has not gone unnoticed.
You may have heard of cryptocurrencies and other blockchain technologies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. One organization is using the idea of mining donations in order to help the low-income victims of the current system of posting bail by providing assistance. By using a portion of a donor’s computer processing power through an app called Bail Bloc, a non-profit organization named The New Inquiry is able to use that processing power to mine an anonymous cryptocurrency called Monero. The Monero is then exchanged for fiat currency (in this case U.S. Dollars) that will be funneled into a larger organization, known as The Bail Project, before those funds go to help eligible defendants post their bail. When that defendant shows up to their court hearings, that money is then returned and goes towards helping other eligible defendants and the cycle repeats.
According to the Bail Bloc website, each donor running the app will be able to mine the equivalent of $3-$5 per month. Though they admit that the amount may not seem like much, they assure potential donors that because of the revolving nature of the funds, those few dollars begin to add up quickly.
While Bail Bloc is a great example of using recent technological innovations in order to help with the growing crisis of the prison industrial complex and their model of incarcerating a disproportionate amount of people of color and a rising number of women, for the less tech-savvy readers in the back there are also other ways you can help out low-income defendants.
Those who do not feel comfortable using their computing power to mine cryptocurrency or are concerned about the use of additional power and the potential environmental impact mining may have, then The Bail Project accepts direct donations through their website. Another organization known as National Bail Out also accepts direct donations that will go to help eligible defendants post bail.
All of the organizations linked in this article strive to take a stand against a system they believe “criminalizes race and poverty.” Ultimately they hope to collect enough information through these projects to “demonstrate the impact of cash bail at a national level, better inform institutional reforms, and effect systemic change.”