Our mission: end cash bail.
Until then: subvert the cash bail system by bailing out as many people as possible.
Cash bail forces people to pay a fixed amount of money, which can be returned after the settlement of their criminal case, to ensure that people with criminal cases return for their court dates. In reality, thousands of people cannot pay even the lowest amount of cash bail and are kept in jail waiting to be tried for low-level, nonviolent offenses.
Being kept in jail for even a few days has serious consequences for people's families and lives. Jobs can be lost. Rent payments missed. Medical conditions untreated. Whole lives ruined just because someone can't afford a few hundred dollars for the unexpected expense of bail.
Cash-strapped individuals charged with misdemeanors are held for days, weeks, months, and even years at a time - without ever being convicted of a crime - simply because they can’t gather enough money to pay bail.
People of color are especially impacted by the criminal justice system and bail policies. Black and Latinx people make up 52% of New York City residents but 90% of people held on bail in New York City jails.
That’s where the Washington Square Legal Services Bail Fund comes in. We pay bail for people charged with misdemeanors, and with bails set at $2,000 or less. That means our bail recipients can fight their case from the outside, instead of accepting an unjust plea deal; it means they can maintain their housing, employment, health and family stability while exercising their basic rights to due process. Upon the completion of the case, the bail money is returned to the Fund and used to bail out the next person who comes through our door.
And while helping individuals caught up by our criminal justice system’s unjust treatment of the poor, we’re also showing New York City that cash bail simply isn’t necessary. Over 90% of our bail recipients make their court dates despite having no financial incentive to do so. This is true even those the City considers “high risk” of not returning to court.
We hope you’ll join us in the fight against the criminal justice system’s economic and racial discrimination.