Friends of The Bail Project – Cleveland launches operations fund at Cleveland Foundation

Foundation commits $200,000 to support local bail disruptors in securing freedom for Cleveland residents

Release Date: 8.27.2020 

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Foundation board of directors today announced a $200,000 grant to support the launch of the Friends of The Bail Project – Cleveland operations fund at the foundation. As the first Friends of The Bail Project group in the country, the funds will go to support the local team working in Cleveland, including staffing, administrative support and wraparound services.

In Cleveland, The Bail Project is actively working to reduce the Cuyahoga County Jail’s pretrial detention population, in addition to providing wraparound support services to those defendants released from jail. In its first year in Cleveland, The Bail Project has already posted bail for 237 clients (as of July 31, 2020). Those clients have appeared for 95% of their court dates, and of cases closed to date, 30% had all of their charges dismissed outright and another 61% had the charges resolved with no additional jail time.

“We created this fund to help ensure ongoing infrastructure support for the critical work on the ground that is securing freedom for individuals in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County,” said Rob Martens, who, along with his wife, Holley, was among the initial contributors to the fund. “It’s amazing what The Bail Project has accomplished in just one year in Northeast Ohio, and we’re committed to the organization’s long-term success in our community.”

Since the initial launch of the Friends of The Bail Project – Cleveland, more than $540,000 has been raised from the community for the operations fund. The Friends group is hoping to raise $1.25M to support at least five years of operations in Cleveland. In addition to the Martens, the original group of funders includes Albert and Audrey Ratner and the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, with Cecil and Erica Lipscomb co-chairing the Cleveland Friends’ fundraising efforts.

“As a bail disruptor, I see the plight of cash bail on Cuyahoga County communities each day,” said Anthony Body, one of The Bail Project’s bail disruptors in Cleveland. “Funds raised through the Cleveland Foundation will help us to combat the racial and economic injustices that are ingrained in the criminal legal system. Paying bail for someone in need is an act of resistance against a system that criminalizes race and poverty and an act of solidarity with local communities and movements for decarceration. We are grateful for the support and are motivated to continue our part in securing freedom for people in need.”

The Bail Project is a national nonprofit that provides free bail assistance to thousands of low-income Americans every year, reuniting families and restoring the presumption of innocence. Launched in 2018, The Bail Project’s National Revolving Bail Fund pays bail for individuals who are legally presumed innocent and whom a judge has deemed eligible for release. The Bail Project then provides court date reminders, transportation assistance, and voluntary service referrals – known as the “Community Release with Support” model. As clients’ cases close, bail comes back into the national fund where it is recycled to help additional people. To date, The Bail Project has secured freedom for more than 11,000 people in over 20 cities across the country, while working with community partners to advance systemic change.

“The work of The Bail Project aligns with the foundation’s longstanding commitment to racial equity and criminal justice reform,” said India Pierce Lee, Cleveland Foundation senior vice president for program. “We know Black residents are tragically overrepresented in the Cuyahoga County Jail population and we commend those who can give their support for this critical racial justice initiative.”

For more information or to donate to the Friends of The Bail Project – Cleveland operations fund, visit ClevelandFoundation.org/BailProject. To learn more about the organization and to give directly to The Bail Project’s National Revolving Bail Fund, visit bailproject.org.

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