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Candace McKinley thought that by this point, the Philadelphians would be tapped. She is the lead organizer of the Philadelphia Community Bell Fund, which saw a massive $3 million in donations after a summer of racial justice protests.
So when he set his fundraising goal for the fifth annual black mama day bailout, he lowered it. McKinley expected to bring in $90,000 – $10k below last year’s target.
McKinley thought wrong.
For the 2021 campaign, she and her staff raised $202,204, which helped them free up at least 25 people in time for vacation. That’s enough money to let them move on from mothers, and start weeding out other black women, and trans and gender-nonconforming people.
“We have been surprised and encouraged by the generosity of the people,” McKinley told Billy Penn. “And also proceeded to set high goals and expectations for the amount of work we can do.”
Before a defendant is ever found guilty, they can be jailed for an indefinite period of time if they can’t come up with enough cash to hand them over to the courts. The system has been widely criticized as unjust, advocates have argued. criminalization of being poor By imprisoning those who cannot afford to pay.
This year’s Mother’s Day bailout effort also coincided with a major public art campaign.
For the fourth time, the Community Bail Fund partnered with the People’s Paper Co-op in North Philadelphia. The Co-op, an arts program for women previously incarcerated, pairs women who spent time behind bars with well-known artists to create new works, which were sold to raise money. The arts organization kicked in an additional $40,000 and expects another $125,000. national bail out.
“It’s the most I’ve ever had,” McKinley said of the Mother’s Day pot of funds. “We may be able to help some of the women who have high bellies that we usually aren’t able to help, simply because people have been so generous this year.”
Now a key partner of the People’s Paper Co-op, North Philly native Faith Bartley has been imprisoned multiple times. There was a time when she couldn’t afford him $260 bail.
She waited in a cell at the Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia for four months in 2005 before pleading not guilty. Bartley said he lost his job, his apartment and the valuable time he spent with his mother, who was dying of cancer.
“I was sitting in prison for a crime I didn’t commit,” Bartley said.
Now for re-election, District Attorney Larry Krasner ran a stage liquidation of cash security. He hasn’t gotten there yet, but Krasner’s efforts to dial back the practice have revealed that Most defendants showed up for court Anyway, and was not re-arrested more often than other criminals.
In 2017, McKinley and others, organizer of the Bell Fund, started Philly’s first Black Mama Day bailout to help people get out of prison and spend time with their children. That first year, he raised $60,000 and was able to bail out 13 moms.
The project evolved into the year-long Philadelphia Community Bell Fund, which serves people of all genders and ethnicities.
Last year was huge for the program: from March 2020 to May 2021, the fund raised more than $3 million, and was able to bail out 405 people. The usual Mama Day effort to get people out of jail has been turned into a major push as COVID spread, which raised more than $320,000 in April and May. Of those granted bail by the organization, 80% were released in the last year alone.
The formerly all-volunteer group now has a few salaried staff members, and offers wraparound services such as transportation, housing assistance, and job-finding assistance.
This year, the Community Bell Fund has already released 10 moms ahead of Mother’s Day — with at least 15 more in the pipeline. This is partly thanks to help from the People’s Paper Co-op.
Led by co-directors Courtney Bowles and Mark Strandquist from the Village of the Arts and Humanities, the re-entry program hosts seasonal fellowships of 4 to 7 formerly incarcerated women. Each spring they are paired with artists to create posters, T-shirts and prints focused on the criminal justice system.
collection is for sale Cooperative’s website, with prices ranging from $50 to $300.
This includes 10 limited edition posters of women printed on their criminal records, which have been torn down and merged into the new paper. these Billed at $3,000, intended for high-end collectors and advocates of the cause. According to Bowles, the Free Library picked one up, too.
“We’re over the moon that the Free Library bought one,” Bowles said. “Now Philadelphians can go to the special collection [department] And he will live there forever.”
The cooperative teams also painted some murals, one at Spring Garden near 12th Street and another at Third and South. There’s a billboard on Delaware Avenue, and another going up near Railroad Park. A connected interactive exhibition has just opened Eastern State Atonement.
It’s a transformative program, said Bartley, a North Philly native — a release valve for her and other women who have been traumatized by the criminal justice system.
“It’s a lot more therapeutic,” Bartley said. “I always thought that my criminal record would keep me from doing things I would have dreamed of in the past. It’s wonderful to use my voice and my art to truly set women free.”
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