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New App Crowdsources Funds to Pay Bail for the Incarcerated

An all-black team of programmers and tech entrepreneurs created an app called “Appolition,” which has recently been gaining traction in the media for its effective solution to a growing problem in the United States.

About two-thirds of America’s jail population are behind bars awaiting trial. And five out of six of those people are in jail because they could not afford bail or because a bail agent declined to post a bond. This amounts to about 700,000 people currently being behind bars for their inability to procure money for bail. There is a stark racial disparity in pretrial detention as blacks are more likely than whites or non-black minorities to be in jail while they await trial, even after controlling for the seriousness of charges and prior record.

In order to alleviate this widespread issue, founders of Appolition, Kortney Ziegler and Tiffany Mikell, decided to create an app which would offer financial assistance to African-Americans in pretrial detention. It is inspired by National Bail Out, an organization whose purpose is to bring together “black-led community bail funds to provide relief for black folks who needed support.”

Activist programmers from all corners of the country joined together to turn this innovative idea into reality. The app works by connecting to your bank account and upon each purchase made, change is donated automatically. This occurs each time you reach at least 50 cents in spare change. All funds raised go to National Bail Out.

The app, which was launched in November, now has 6,000 sign-ups.

“Based on this traction, we estimate to offer bail for at least 16 individuals per month, but that could double if we keep growing at the rate we are—which is acquiring hundreds of users per day,” Ziegler said to The Root.

Social media is playing a huge role in the growth of this app as users across several platforms have spread the app to an international audience. Similar to websites like GoFundMe, Appolition utilizes this type of crowdsourcing to promote grassroots activism in bail reform. The founders of Appolition are showing the American people you can do more than wait on your public officials to push for change in our criminal justice system: you can take action.

The price of bail has risen to unprecedented levels and it is becoming harder and harder to post bond for the average American. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, bail amounts have increased by more than $30,000 between 1992 and 2006. In 2006, at least half of those incarcerated in our 75 most populated jails were assigned a bail of at least $10,000. This has set a formidable fee for freedom as the average person being held during pretrial detention has a median annual income of about $15,109, the PPI reported.

This concept of bail money although enshrined in the Bill of Rights, has recently gained opposition and spurred a national movement due to the stories of individuals such as Kalief Browder. A prime example of the detrimental effects of pretrial detention on black communities, the story of Browder was adopted as a Spike TV documentary. Arrested at age 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack, Browder was given a $3,000 bail fee. Unable to raise the money, he was sent to Rikers Island, where he was held for three years before prosecutors in the Bronx decided to dismiss the charges. His time consisted of regular beatings from fellow inmates and guards, as well as, according to his account, starvation and torture. Upon release, Browder committed suicide after long bouts of depression and paranoia, directly attributed to his time in prison. His mother would later die of a broken heart. Browder’s case was not unusual and there are many stories similar to his unfolding at this very moment.

Due to the efforts of the members of Appolition and organizations like National Bail Out, we are taking the necessary steps to right the institutional wrongs which have been committed against poor communities, especially communities of color.   

“I hope the concept of money bail is completed abolished—as are prisons themselves,” Ziegler said. We agree.

Image credit: VannDigital

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Melat Eskender
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Leftist, Humanist, Aspiring Political Journalist, and Advocate of Social Justice. You can find me @melateskender on twitter.

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