Colin Kaepernick and his Know Your Rights camp have teamed up with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights to help free people in jail. Last week, the two organizations announced a $1 million donation to community bail funds as coronavirus cases continue to soar, particularly among those incarcerated.
According to a news release, 70% of people remain stuck in jail because they can’t afford bail, while an overwhelming number of those incarcerated are people of color. To combat this issue, the nonprofits will provide funds to local organizers in 10 cities across the country, giving groups like Reverse the Cycle of Incarceration in Atlanta and the Nashville Community Bail Fund access to resources to release people from jails.
“Our legal system unjustly criminalizes our Black and Brown communities, penalizing poverty under the guise of keeping our communities safe,” reads a statement from Kaepernick, who founded the Know Your Rights Camp to advance young people of color through education, self-empowerment, and mass-mobilization. “We must reimagine the current system and abolish wealth-based detention, freeing our brothers, sisters, and siblings from a racist system.”
Dubbed the Funds for Freedom partnership, the donation comes as the threat of COVID-19 continues to rise behind bars. Jails and prisons currently entail the five largest clusters of COVID-19, while deaths tied to the virus have increased by 73%, states the press release. Meanwhile, people detained in jail because they can’t afford their bail are four times more likely to be sentenced to prison than those who are wealthy. Not only are Black people overrepresented in jails but they’re also more likely to receive higher bail amounts, even though they are less likely to be able to afford it.
“Predatory cash bail is part and parcel of the institutionalized anti-Black racism that has plagued our country,” said Kerry Kennedy, the president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, in a news release. “This $1 million commitment from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp will empower community-led bail funds and accelerate their crucial work freeing people caged in our local jails.
In addition to the funding, Kennedy says the “Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ team of lawyers and advocates will work with local organizers to stop the aggressive policing and endless cycle of mass incarceration that have targeted poor and Black communities and move to end cash bail now.”
“There is an urgency that I feel when it comes to getting people out of a cage. One hour, or two, or three in a jail cell—it can traumatize you for life, and the risks are even greater now with COVID-19 in jails across the nation,” said Rahim Buford, manager of the Nashville Community Bail Fund.
He added, “of the 1,000 people we’ve freed since 2016, over half of those cases were ultimately not prosecuted. Had they stayed in jail, they would’ve more than likely pled guilty.”