Organization works to free jailed mothers, end cash bail system

Michigan

DETROIT (WOOD) — Over the past three years, a statewide organization has raised enough money to bail out dozens of mothers from jail, reuniting them with their families for Mother’s Day.

Black Mama’s Day Bailout, an annual campaign launched by Michigan Liberation, is the state’s contribution to a nationwide Mother’s Day effort to spotlight the disproportionate number of Black moms that can’t afford bail.

“When you look inside of our county jails, there are a lot of women that are trapped in there because of the cash bail system,” said Nicholas Buckingham, campaign director for Michigan Liberation and founder of the Michigan Black Mama’s Day Bailout campaign.

Buckingham said he’s seen people in jail with bailouts as little as $1, but they don’t have the cash to bond out.

“Research showed us that the majority of the folks that were stuck inside the county jail were in there because of low-level misdemeanors or traffic violations,” he said.

This system, he explained, has a disproportionate impact on people of color. Though women only make up a small percentage of the state’s overall population of those in jail, a report from the Prison Policy Institute shows women incarceration rates have grown at twice the pace of men’s in recent decades.

“In 2018, I decided that for Michigan, I wanted to organize a table to raise money, to start to bail out Black moms for Mother’s Day,” Buckingham said.

With the help of the national organization, nearly 60 Black women have been freed so far across the state, including some in Kalamazoo County. But the efforts don’t just stop with Mother’s Day.

“This year, we want to do things a little bit different,” Buckingham said. “We want to highlight certain times throughout the year, like Juneteenth and Black August. We also want to bring people home for Christmas and turkey day and New Year’s and yeah, just show up for these folks.”

He added that the goal is to get into every county in the state, providing the education, resources and support needed to keep people out of jail once they’re free.

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