Brooklyn Community Bail Fund secures the freedom of New Yorkers who would otherwise be detained pretrial due to their poverty alone. We are committed to challenging the criminalization of race, poverty and immigration status, the practice of putting a price on fundamental rights, and the persistent myth that bail is a necessary element of the justice system.
Leveraging our groundbreaking work as a charitable bail fund, BCBF joined with other community-based organizations, immigration advocates and legal services providers to form the New York Immigrant Freedom Fund program (NYIFF). Operated by BCBF, the NYIFF program secures the freedom of New Yorkers held in ICE detention who cannot afford to pay bond.
Ours is a radical intervention in a system that treats people differently based on wealth, skin color, immigration status and influence. Partnering with other community-based organizations to advocate for systems change, we’re challenging the criminalization of race and poverty, the practice of putting a price on fundamental rights, and the persistent myth that bail and pretrial detention are necessary elements of the justice system.
From 2015 through 2019, BCBF paid more $5 million in bail to secure the freedom of nearly 5,000 individuals accused of misdemeanors. Our work proved that money bail is not only unjust, but also unnecessary: 95% of our clients returned to court as required—often multiple times and over a period of months—with no personal financial incentive to do so.
In response to intensifying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, deportations, and retaliatory enforcement of immigration laws, BCBF formed the New York Immigrant Freedom Fund (NYIFF) program to secure the freedom of non-citizen New Yorkers held in immigration detention and eligible for release during the pendency of their cases, but at bond amounts—the average is now over $8,500—they cannot afford. Leveraging our on-the-ground experience as a bail fund, we have secured the freedom of over 450 community members from ICE detention. We will harness our results to demonstrate that immigration bond and detention harm, and do not protect, our communities.
In 2019, we were proud to partner with community-based organizations, advocates, and members of affected communities to help win historic criminal justice reform in New York State that became effective on January 1, 2020. That legislation, however, has now been rolled back, resulting in the expansion of money bail, which will lead to the pretrial incarceration of up to tens of thousands more people. BCBF will continue to leverage our expertise, visibility and partnerships in the fight to end pretrial detention and #FreeThemAll.
A bail fund is an organization, often charitable, community and volunteer-driven, or both, that collects money for the purpose of posting monetary bail for those in jail on pre-trial detention. Recipients may include those who cannot afford bail on their own or those who are in jail due to being arrested while protesting. Community bail funds determine their own criteria for eligibility and amount of bail that they will support. As of 2020, there are over 60 community bail funds around the United States represented in the National Bail Fund Network.
Bail funds are related to bail reform efforts, as by paying individual bails, funds help directly address the disparities in case outcomes faced by those in pre-trial detention who are unable to post bail. Being unable to pay bail, and thus staying in jail longer before trial, means that defendants who cannot afford bail may have issues with managing or keeping employment, childcare, housing, or mounting an effective defense in their case, leading to poorer case outcomes. The Vera Institute of Justice found that in 2013 in New York, 54% of inmates who remained in jail until their cases were disposed could not afford their bail of $2500 or less. In 2020, the Prison Policy Initiative found that over half a million people were in jail or prison on pre-trial detention in the United States at any given time, many because they could not afford bail.
Though community bail funds vary in how they raise money, decide on applicant eligibility, and manage the logistics of posting bail, the basic principles are the same. Monetary bail is set after arrest as a guarantee to ensure that suspects return to court for trial. Bail is paid to the court as a deposit that is returned at the conclusion of a case. This means that bail funds that post bail receive the money back (minus fees) when the individual bailed out returns to court and completes their case, enabling the bail fund to reuse the money for another bail. Bail funds are differentiated from other methods of paying bail in that they are often unconnected to the individuals who receive bail.
The history of bail funds dates back to the 1920s; the American Civil Liberties Union set up a bail fund in 1920 to release people arrested for sedition during the First Red Scare. However, the rise of community bail funds across the United States has only happened since around 2012. In 2012, New York passed the only law related to bail funds in the United States when it legalized charitable bail funds that posted bails of $2000 or less, which led to the revival of The Bronx Freedom Fund and the creation of the Brooklyn Bail Fund.
BROOKLYN, NY 11201-3631 | Tax-exempt since Aug. 2014
Classification (NTEE) Single Organization Support (Crime, Legal-Related)
Nonprofit Tax Code Designation: 501(c)(3) Defined as: Organizations for any of the following purposes: religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition (as long as it doesn’t provide athletic facilities or equipment), or the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
Donations to this organization are tax deductible.
Current immigration policy denies entry to refugees fleeing violence, detains people in abusive detention centers, and separates parents from their children. RAICES is the largest legal aid group of its kind in Texas.