California is on the brink of passing landmark criminal justice reform that would end the cruel cycle of incarceration and bail debt for thousands of families. But corporate bail profiteers and the Trump coalition are pulling out all the stops trying to kill it.
At a recent bail reform hearing, our partner, Essie Justice Group — a powerful organization that harnesses the power of women with incarcerated loved ones to end mass incarceration — came to tell their stories and push for bail reform. The bail industry was also there — represented by a troubling coalition. Known-racist and proud Trump supporter Dog the Bounty Hunter was their celebrity guest and they even tried to pass off the leader of ‘Blacks for Trump’ — a bail bondsman herself — as representing the interest of the Black community.
Essie Justice Group’s members’ response to being confronted by overt racism from people desperately trying to hold on to their share of the incarceration business is to fight back by calling on Black communities and our allies to send a clear message that we demand an end to this corrupt and racist system.
The bail bond industry makes billions exploiting poor Black people and they don’t hesitate to criminalize our communities to keep the money flowing. Like Donald Trump and so many ‘Law & Order’ politicians, the industry employs scare tactics about mythical crime waves and ‘Law & Order’ talk to protect their profit margins.
It’s no surprise then that they would bring Dog the Bounty Hunter Chapman, who lost his television show after a recording of him going on an N-word filled rant forbidding his son from dating a Black woman, to represent them. What they really represent is the vile agenda to reverse the national trend toward bringing down incarceration rates in order to protect a system that criminalizes communities of color for profit. He should be nowhere near any conversation about reform.
The real experts on California’s criminal justice system are the women and families that have been impacted by it. They know that too many people are trapped in jail, awaiting trial because they cannot afford to buy their way out. They know that whether guilty or innocent, a single arrest could lead to long jail stays and long-term bail debt. They know that families can lose their homes, jobs and even be broken apart because California operates a system that locks people up if they can’t afford to pay.
Black women and low-income women bear the brunt of the vicious bail bond industry. Women become trapped in debt and are forced to make the difficult decision of paying for basic needs for their families and paying off a bail to a for-profit bail bond company.1 Others, like Sandra Bland, have died in jail while waiting to make bail.
This has gone on long enough and we can’t let frauds who hate Black people block progress in a state like California. Instead, if we can push this reform over the finish line, we can build momentum to defeat the industry for good. Ending the money bail system in a state like California will be a huge turning point for other states to follow suit.
Until justice is real,
Scott, Rashad, Arisha, Anay, Clarise, Enchanta, Malaya, and the rest of the Color Of Change team
1. “Bail Reform California, ” Bail Reform California Platform, 2017. https://act.colorofchange.