The Bail Project helps people in Indy who can’t afford their cash bail pretrial

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A national non-profit working to reform the country's criminal justice system is launching another location in Indianapolis.

It's called The Bail Project. Their focus is on helping people who can't afford their cash bail pretrial.

"In our current bail system, two people charged with exactly the same thing will experience different justice systems depending of the size of their bank account and often times the color of their skin," said Robin Steinberg, CEO of The Bail Project, said in a statement.  "The Bail Project is taking a two-pronged strategy to change this two-tier system of justice and restore the presumption of innocence for everyone. We are delivering free bail assistance to tens of thousands of low-income Americans and scaling our model across diverse jurisdictions to demonstrate the effectiveness of our model in ensuring court appearance and driving fairer case outcomes. Our newest site is Indianapolis, Indiana, a state that is experiencing one of the fastest rates of pretrial incarceration in the country. We hope our work will be a catalyst in the growing movement for bail reform in Indiana."

The project started in Indianapolis over the winter. So far, it says it's helped more than 10 people.

"If we're not gonna help those people and help uplift them then they're just gonna continue to struggle and they're gonna continue to have hardships but on top of  we're penalizing them for their poverty," David Gaspar, a client advocate for The Bail Project in Indianapolis, said.

He gave the example of someone experiencing homelessness.

"A great scenario, one that we're experiencing now strongly in Indianapolis, are trespassing charges. so you'll have a homeless person. right now it's freezing cold outside. they're trying to find somewhere warm. they have to make the choice between freezing and potentially having some type of harm happen to them or finding a warm place to sleep," Gaspar said.

Gaspar said in that scenario, the person may have a low bail but because of their circumstance don't the resources for it. So he said the project bails them out and works to connect them to a shelter and resources.

In addition to providing bail, the non-profit helps with wraparound services, transportation and making sure clients make their court dates.

"Long term the goal is  just to really bring awareness of criminal justice reform and to make an impact even here in the city of Indianapolis with the criminal justice reform and  the pretrial detention," Devi Davis, another client advocate in Indianapolis, said.

The Marion County Public Defender Agency refers some clients.

"I would think eventually you'll see a positive impact on jail overcrowding, which is an issue in this county for years. I'd think you'd see an impact on sentences. I think you'll see an impact on the perception of the criminal justice system amongst people who don't have the means to represent themselves," chief public defender Robert Hill said.

The project uses a revolving bail fund nationwide, so clients return money to the fund to help others when they go to court.

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