Dallas Co. Sheriff Blocks Faith In Texas from Posting Bail, Sparking Standoff

Texas

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Month-long effort highlights unjust, wealth-based bail system that criminalizes poverty, disproportionately affects black and brown communities  

DALLAS – Today, advocates are calling foul after the Dallas County jail clerk refused to accept bail payments to help free residents stuck in jail because they can’t afford bail.

This comes as Faith in Texas (FIT) continues a month-long effort to release community members being held in jail due to the inability to pay bail, highlight the broken bail system in Dallas Co., and expose elected officials advocates say are profiting off of it. FIT is a client of the Civil Rights Corps, an organization that filed litigation against Dallas County for their bail practices.

FIT today attempted to bail out 16 people — one of whom is barely 17 years old and had already been held in jail for four days — to reunite them with their families, keep their jobs and continue contributing to their communities. FIT arrived at the jail with checks for the amount of assigned bail for each individual, as they have used to successfully bail folks out for the entire month of August. But due to a bizarre stall tactic by the clerk, organizers were forced to leave the facility, locate a bank, and return to the jail with the money—a total of over $21,000— in cash. Had the banks closed before the organizers arrived, the presumptively innocent individuals would have remained caged until Monday at the earliest.

“Our mission toward equity in our local justice system is clear – to continue to invite elected officials in Dallas County to adopt pro-immigration and criminal justice reform policies that center on the most vulnerable and under-prioritized members of our community,” said Faith in Texas LIVE FREE Organizer Brittany White. “No member of our community should be held in prison simply because they cannot afford to buy their release.”

In January, Civil Rights Corps, the Texas Fair Defense Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Texas filed a federal class action lawsuit against Dallas County, Texas, the Sheriff, and the County’s Judges and Magistrates for violating the constitutional rights of people arrested for misdemeanors and felonies by keeping them in jail just because they cannot afford to pay money bail, and for conducting bail hearings in secret.

“What happened today illustrates just how arbitrary the bail system really is,” said Elizabeth Rossi, attorney with the Civil Rights Corps. “Despite the fact that the folks bailed out today managed to access cash bail through local groups, they were still denied release and kept behind bars longer for no reason. Dallas County and the Sheriff maintain a discriminatory system where people must pay for freedom on terms set, on a whim, by jail clerks.”

Each person released through the effort received a $25 gift card, a hygiene pack and food cards, thanks to generous donations from Friendship West Baptist Church, the TEA Fund, and Afiya Center. The TEA Fund and Metrocare are also providing a social worker and other support services for those released.

This month-log initiative culminates next Friday, August 31, with the Freedom Summer: Black August Bailout Event, which will celebrate the return of community members and further amplify the conversation around the much-needed reform in the legal system.

have remained caged until Monday at the earliest.

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