Group fires fix for poverty-based jailings

Steve Smith, public defender, and colleague Mike Little take part in the launch of the Chattanooga cash bail fund. (Photo David Tulis)

Jill Black and nearly 150 other people take part Thursday in the public launch of the city’s community bail fund, an effort in Chrisian mercy. (Photo David Tulis)

Nearly a 150 people in the Chattanooga area gather Thursday to hear arguments for a charitable cash bail fund that seeks to counter the damage the legal system imposes on innocent individuals and families.

The project of a Christian group Caleb will use donated funds to rescue men and women charged criminally who are too poor to meet the bond requirements of Hamilton County magistrates. Because of what activists decry as “wealth-based detention,” these souls remain behind bars unconvicted, unable to prepare a efense, sacked in their rights and their jobs and wrecked personally by iron-and-concrete-encased idleness.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

A former elected public defender from Nashville, Dawn Deaner, gives an explanation of how the 5 year old cash bail fund works in that city.

On a F$5,000 bond, the manager of the Nashville fund “pays the full F$5,000 bond to the clerk’s office. At the end of the case, the full F$5,000 bond comes back to the fund.” More than 400 people in Nashville have been saved by its fund, with the total outlays being F$1.2 million. Nine people a week are rescued, she says, nibbling away at the profits of the bond traffickers, a multi-billion dollar trade.

Mary Bricker-Jenkins offers an admonition about injustice. (Photo David Tulis)

The system of loans and surety lets wealthier people bail out, though some may be just as likely as a poor person to commit other crimes or skip out, Mrs. Deaner says. Fifty-four percent of cases this year ended with either dismissal or the state’s dropping the charges.  

Across the country there is growing interest in reducing the damage caused by the mix of faux dignity and dreary, impersonal terror of what defenders of the modern state call justice.

“I wasn’t able to go to my job; I wasn’t able to look for a job because they wouldn’t let me out,” says Allen Shropshire who is in years past lived “the incarceration lifestyle. *** These people were holding me hostage because they’ll let me out when they let me out.” He urges his listeners to “be the sound and the voice to help these people out” of the county jail.

No one from Neal Pinkston’s state attorney’s office was known to have attended the event, though public defender Steve Smith sat through the whole event with fellow PD Mike Little.

Restoring ancient rights

“We have to remember that you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty,” Mr. Smith says.

“That’s an important value that transcends politics. It transcends race and culture. It goes back 800 years to the Magna Carta. That we still have people passionate about the idea that you;re innocent until proven guilty and that you ought not to be serving time and being punished until you’re found guilty or plead guilty, I think it’s affirming, and would be a benefit to my clients.”

People are incarcerated for being unable to make bail in this award-winning, state-certified wreck of a government hellhole, the Hamilton County jail. (Photo

Felipe Lara, a member of Chattanooga Organized for Action, provides a meaty analysis of incarceration rates, the economic cartel nature of modern prisons, and how the bail bond industry is part of a predatory system serving the state, fed by police enforcement and routine intimidation of minorities and people of lesser means. Tennessee’s incarceration rates sharply exceed the national — and global — per capital average.

That the state plays both sides of the legal aisle, the defense and the prosecution, creates the need for the ubiquitous plea bargain and extraordinary rates of criminal police action against members of the public. The bond fund for Chattanooga and Hamilton County has as a starting capital base goal between $15,000 to $20,000. The money that is donated is understood not to be lost, but to be recycled. When a person has his case resolved, the check written to the county clerk is refunded in full.

The bail bond industry normally assesses a 10 percent fee to provide the guarantee of return for court hearings. That fee, of course, is not returned to the accused when matters are settled. That is the bondsman’s profit, and the speakers anticipate resistance from the bail bond industry.

Why jail if no conviction for crime?

Dawn Deaner, former elected public defender in Nashville for two decades, explains the evil of “wealth-based incarceration” among people unconvicted of a crime. (Photo NoogaRadio)

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