The Bail Project, Inc. is an unprecedented effort to combat mass incarceration at the front end of the system. We pay bail for people in need, reuniting families and restoring the presumption of innocence. Because bail is returned at the end of a case, donations to The Bail Project™ National Revolving Bail Fund can be recycled and reused to pay bail two to three times per year, maximizing the impact of every dollar. 100% of online donations are used to bring people home.
We believe that paying bail for someone in need is an act of resistance against a system that criminalizes race and poverty and an act of solidarity with local communities and movements for decarceration. Over the next five years, The Bail Project will open dozens of sites in high-need jurisdictions with the goal of paying bail for tens of thousands of low-income Americans, all while collecting stories and data that prove money bail is not necessary to ensure people return to court. We won’t stop until meaningful change is achieved and the presumption of innocence is no longer for sale.
Our Story. It’s a Bronx tale.
The seed for The Bail Project was planted over 10 years ago when The Bronx Freedom Fund, the first-of-its-kind nonprofit, revolving bail fund in the country, launched in New York City. Since then, The Bronx Freedom Fund has grown out of a determination to combat mass incarceration and racial disparities at the front end of the system. Because bail is returned at the end of a case, we are able to build a sustainable revolving fund where philanthropic dollars can be used several times per year, maximizing the impact of every contribution.
As one of the oldest revolving community bail funds and a leader in the field, The Bronx Freedom Fund has provided technical assistance and step-by-step guides to help other funds spring up across the country. Over the years, our model has been strengthened by our close collaboration with local community partners, stakeholders, and public defenders. Beyond the human impact of The Bronx Freedom Fund, stories and data from our work in the Bronx have been instrumental in showing that unaffordable cash bail is not only unjust, but also unnecessary.
In 2018, with the support of The Audacious Project at TED, we got the opportunity to take the lessons and expertise we developed in the Bronx and scale the revolving bail fund model to a national level with the goal of providing bail assistance on an unprecedented scale while working with community partners toward meaningful and long-lasting reforms. The Bail Project is our dream to reimagine a more just and equitable pretrial system, one that is truly grounded in the presumption of innocence for all, regardless of race, economic status, or accusation.
Robin Steinberg is an American lawyer and social justice advocate who is currently the chief executive officer of the Bail Project, an organization she founded with her husband David Feige in 2007 which is modeled after The Bronx Freedom Fund. Steinberg is the founder and former executive director of The Bronx Defenders, a community-based public defense office serving low-income New Yorkers in the Bronx since 1997, and the director of Still She Rises, Tulsa, "the first public defender office in the nation dedicated exclusively to the representation of mothers in the criminal justice system". At The Bronx Defenders, Steinberg created The Center for Holistic Defense, a program that trains public defender offices across the country to replicate The Bronx Defenders’ model of holistic defense.
Steinberg was born and raised in New York City under a Jewish household. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1978 with a degree in Women’s Studies, Steinberg moved back to New York to attend the New York University School of Law to begin a career in women’s rights law. During her time at NYU Law, Steinberg enrolled in a clinic called the Women’s Prison Project.
In November 2017, with support from The Audacious Project, a TED philanthropic initiative, Steinberg launched The Bail Project, a national nonprofit that provides free bail assistance and pretrial support to thousands of low-income people every year. According to Steinberg, the organization’s ultimate goal is “put ourselves out of business, having demonstrated that money and profit should have no role in criminal justice, and leaving behind a blueprint for how to support people during the pretrial process.” The organization currently works with public defense offices and community partners in more than a dozen cities, posting bail for people in need and supporting them through court reminders, transportation assistance, and voluntary referrals to social services. Assets of $22,547,817 and income of $24,783,751 were reported in 2018.
In April 2019, a St. Louis man who received free bail assistance from The Bail Project was charged with fatally injuring his wife after being released pretrial. In response to the incident, Steinberg said, "No one could have predicted this tragedy. It’s important to remember that had he been wealthy enough to afford his bail, or bonded out by a commercial bail bond agency, he would have been free pretrial as well. In times like this, we must come together for this family and keep sight of the need to transform the larger systems that create poverty, racism and violence, including the pretrial bail system." The Riverfront Times, a publication in St. Louis, wrote that The Bail Project had simply posted a bail amount that had been set by the local criminal justice system, adding, "If a friend or relative of Scott had posted the bail, no one would be blaming that person for the ensuing tragedy, nor should they. Ditto for a bail bondsman."
Still She Rises
In January 2017, Steinberg launched Still She Rises, Tulsa, a project of The Bronx Defenders and the first public defender office in the country dedicated exclusively to the representation of women with children in the criminal justice system. Oklahoma incarcerates a higher percentage of women than any other state and more than double the national average. Still She Rises brings the holistic model of public defense pioneered by The Bronx Defenders to low-income women in the North Tulsa community.
Center for Holistic Defense
In 2010, Steinberg received funding from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to begin the Center for Holistic Defense, the training and technical assistance arm of The Bronx Defenders. Each year for five years, the Center selected between three and six defender offices for intensive training, including site visits at defenders’ offices and The Bronx Defenders, on how to adopt holistic defense practices. Steinberg has trained over 25 defender offices, ranging from large, statewide public defender systems such as the Wisconsin State Public Defender to small, local groups like the Tribal Defenders for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana.
In 1997, Steinberg and a small group of advocates founded The Bronx Defenders, a community-based public defender office in the South Bronx. The Bronx Defenders now has a staff of over 300 attorneys, advocates, and social workers who represent more than 35,000 low-income  New Yorkers each year. By engaging in legislative advocacy, pursuing impact litigation, and offering training and technical assistance to other public defender organizations, The Bronx Defenders bridges the gap between a traditional direct service organization and a policy organization, seeking to ensure justice and dignity for criminal justice-involved people in the Bronx and beyond.
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.
We see to build a Black and Brown led abolitionist movement rooted in community power towards the goal of achieving transformative justice and healing justice for all incarcerated people, their families and communities.