Nonprofit Bail Fund Responds To Pandemic, Protest Arrests

Nonprofit Bail Fund Responds To Pandemic, Protest Arrests

6:03pm Jul 27, 2020
An unidentified inmate watches as protesters march, demanding criminal justice reform at a demonstration on Chestnut Street in Winston-Salem in June. Most of the people in the Forsyth County jail are waiting for their day in court. The organization says it's unfair that people who can afford to bail out can leave while those who can't must remain there. PAUL GARBER/WFDD

A new organization that provides bail assistance in Forsyth County has faced an unforeseen need posed by the pandemic and arrests related to demonstrations for racial justice.

Julie Brady is one of four Wake Forest University law students who started the Forsyth County Community Bail Fund in February. She says the motivation came from what they saw inside a criminal courtroom.

“Every single day it would just be people begging to have their bond reduced to an amount that they can pay and then the judge would be like ‘I hear ya’ and then lower it from like $20,000 to $10,000, which they still couldn’t pay,” she says.

The organization pays for the inmate’s bail, then gets the money back as long as that person hasn’t missed any court appearances. Weeks after the nonprofit began, the coronavirus shutdowns began. And not long after that, demonstrators started filling the streets to protest the death of George Floyd.

Brady says when the threat of the virus hit, the organization worked with legal professionals to provide bail for 25 inmates who were at the highest risk from COVID-19.

Across the country, community bail funds have also been used to help get protesters out of jail. In Forsyth, the protests went on for weeks without an arrest, but that approach changed this month.

Most of the Forsyth County protesters who have been charged have been released without bond on a written promise to appear in court. But over the weekend, the Forsyth County Community Bail Fund posted bail for six people who had been previously arrested at earlier demonstrations.

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