From Bail Reform to Closing the Jail: Organizing Wins for Divestment

Hosted by the Bail Reform Strategy Group of Funders for Justice

In recent months, as hundreds of thousands of people across the country took to the streets to demand that elected leaders #DefundPolice and #DefendBlackLives, bail funds have been flooded with millions of dollars.  People across the country donated anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet, as we know, contributing bail money for protesters is both critical and only the beginning of a larger understanding of the US carceral system.

We must all do more to end the pre-trial incarceration of people — particularly Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, queer and trans people, and poor people — who are locked in cages for months, and sometimes years, because they cannot afford to pay bail. To this end, we must reject the predatory "risk-based" bail "alternatives" that perpetuate the systems of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Likewise, this is not a time for half-measured reform.  Instead, we must be bold and follow the leadership of directly impacted people as they fight to move us all towards divesting from jails and investing in our communities.

Join us in learning from leaders of two powerful campaigns that have recently won their fight to close local jails: Close the Workhouse, in St. Louis, MO, and Communities Over Cages, in Atlanta, GA. 


About the Campaigns    

The Close the Workhouse campaign aims to attack mass incarceration, without legitimizing or justifying the continued caging of people as punishment. We call for the closure of the Medium Security Institute, better known in St. Louis as the Workhouse, an end to wealth based pretrial detention, and the reinvestment of the money used to cage poor people and Black people into rebuilding the most impacted neighborhoods in this region. The campaign is a collaboration of the individuals subjected to incarceration at the Workhouse and lawyers and activists engaged on the issue. The campaign’s three primary organizational partners work in collaboration everyday in St. Louis to get people free: Action St. Louis, ArchCity Defenders, and Bail Project St. Louis. The campaign emerges directly from the outcry that was the Ferguson Uprising. It is grounded in a commitment to end an ongoing war against Black people that has been waged against generations of families in St. Louis. 

The Communities Over Cages: Close the Jail ATL Campaign won legislation in May of 2019 to close and repurpose the jail through a Community-Led Taskforce. But our campaign is not over - we still have to repurpose the facility into a Center for Wellness & Freedom, reallocate $32.5 million back into the community, and decriminalize the "broken windows" offenses that populated the jail. The Communities Over Cages: Close the Jail ATL Campaign is a ground breaking, local campaign dedicated to divesting from Atlanta’s unjust criminal legal system and investing in our communities by closing the extra City Jail (ACDC), repurposing the facility into a Center for Wellness & Freedom, and reallocating the $32.5 million dollars spent annually to services and supports which help our people thrive. Read more about what we want. The Campaign is led by Women on the Rise and the Racial Justice Action Center and has the support of over 40 organizations comprising the Campaign Alliance.


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