Black Women Among Leaders of Bail Reform Movement

A disproportionate number of the women held in local jails are mothers, and women are leading a number of efforts to reform a cash bail system that targets the poor.

Across the country, Black women are stepping up to lead the fight to end the predominant cash bail system, Arisha Hatch of Color of Change writes for Essence. She cites Sen. Kamala Harris, the California Democrat who recently introduced legislation that encourages alternatives to money bail. The cost of money bail falls disproportionately on Black women. Nearly 80 percent of women in jails are mothers, and most of them have only been accused—not found guilty—of minor drug or “public order” offenses. When mothers languish in jail because of money bail, the costs can be devastating. Women often lose their jobs, housing, or children.

In Houston, Tasha Jackson of the Texas Organizing Project has collaborated with Color of Change to organize communities for bail reform, including removing the former pro-bail district attorney and pressuring the current D.A. and sheriff to commit to bail reform. In California, the Essie Justice Group—led by Gina Clayton—is organizing women with incarcerated loved ones for statewide reform of the bail and criminal justice system. Earlier this year, Mary Hooks of Southerners on New Ground led an effort to bail our Black women for Mother’s Day. In August, that effort continued when 100 mothers were bailed out during Color of Change’s Black August Bail Out.