Recording artist, philanthropist, and most importantly, father Jay Z is joining Color of Change, Movement for Black Lives, and other organizations to take on the bail bonds industry this Father’s Day.
In an op–ed column published in Time magazine on Friday, Jay Z highlights many of the injustices committed because of the bail bonds industry, which overwhelmingly affects families of color. Similar to the National Mama’s Bail Out Day last month, Jay Z and others are bailing fathers out of jail who have not been convicted of crimes, to reunite them with their families.
“Every year $9 billion dollars are wasted incarcerating people who’ve not been convicted of a crime, and insurance companies, who have taken over our bail system, go to the bank,” Jay Z, publishing under his name, Shawn Carter, writes.
That staggering amount of money becomes a pay–for–freedom system that lets detainees with access to funds go free while awaiting trial, while marginalized defendants sit in jail, often for misdemeanors or bogus charges. Locking up mothers and fathers who have not yet been convicted of crimes tears families apart. And hundreds of thousands of people are held in jail because they cannot afford to pay bail on any given day, Jay Z notes.
But the bail bonds industry is but one part of a failing criminal justice system that overwhelmingly targets people of color. According to Jay Z:
When black and brown people are over-policed and arrested and accused of crimes at higher rates than others, and then forced to pay for their freedom before they ever see trial, big bail companies prosper. This pre-incarceration conundrum is devastating to families. One in 9 black children has an incarcerated parent. Families are forced to take on more debt, often in predatory lending schemes created by bail bond insurers. Or their loved ones linger in jails, sometimes for months—a consequence of nationwide backlogs.
Jay Z said he became “obsessed with the injustice of the profitable bail bond industry” while helping produce the documentary series Time: The Kalief Browder Story, which chronicles the life of a teenager who was wrongly accused of a crime and spent three years in New York’s brutal Rikers Island jail while awaiting trial. Browder spent most of his time at Rikers in solitary confinement. Despite being released in 2013, Browder struggled with the trauma of his experience and committed suicide in 2015.
“Kalief’s family was too poor to post bond when he was accused of stealing a backpack,” Jay Z wrote.
As The Root reported, “there are more Black men in prison now than were enslaved in 1850, and many of the Black men serving pre-trial detention have been accused of minor drug and ‘public order’ offenses that disproportionately target Black people.”