Nine people being held in jails in Montgomery and Autauga counties are to be released today, bailed out by a group in honor of Juneteenth, a commemoration of the ending of slavery in the U.S.
The Montgomery Bail Out Fund, a group of Montgomery attorneys, teachers, activists and advocates, is partnering with the Movement for Black Lives’ SIXNINETEEN, a nationwide day of action coalition, to bail out nine people being held in the Montgomery County Jail and one person being held at the Autauga Metro Jail today. Those persons are being held because they cannot afford the cost of bail, according to a press release from the Montgomery group.
“It was on June 19, 1865, that enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, were the last to learn, nearly two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, that enslaved people in non-Union states were no longer legal property,” the group’s press release reads. “155 years later, Juneteenth is still commemorated as a day that honors Black freedom and Black resistance, and centers Black people’s unique contribution to the struggle for justice in the U.S.”
“This Juneteenth is a rare moment for our communities to proclaim in one voice that Black Lives Matter, and that we won’t tolerate anything less than justice for all Black people. Our action seeks to disrupt the inherent inequity of the money bail system and its disparate impact on the Black people of Montgomery and all across the country,” the statement continues.
The group also notes that while COVID-19 cases are surging in Montgomery and statewide, the number of people housed in the Montgomery County Jail has been steadily rising since mid-April.
“The Montgomery Bail Out Fund believes that we must bring an end to the abusive and unjust system of money bail,” said Ashley Edwards, a Montgomery Bail Out volunteer organizer, in a statement. “This country’s criminal legal system has done irreparable harm to the Black community. Bailing people out from jail alone cannot undo that harm. With this action, however, we are affirming our commitment to our anti-racist core values, uplifting the broader demands of the Movement For Black Lives, and shining a light on the ongoing injustices right here in Montgomery.”
“For those of us who do this work every day, we see even minimal bail amounts lead to loss of jobs and homes, families separated, and their decline in mental health because they don’t have access to their medications while in jail,” said Montgomery County Chief Public Defender, Aylia McKee, in a statement.
“While for others a $6,500 bond, for example, is an automatic release. And then you add their limited ability to assist in their own defense while they’re incarcerated and the inability to show themselves to the court as lawful and worthy of a second chance, it certainly has an impact on the outcome of their case,” McKee continued. “In Montgomery, and across the country, African Americans are disproportionately impacted and incarcerated at higher rates. Money alone should not have this much of an influence over a system that is supposed to be built on fairness and produce justice.”
The Montgomery group also joins the Movement For Black Lives in a call for the defunding of the Montgomery Police Department, a reinvestment in black communities, especially the underfunded communities of North, South, and West Montgomery, and for the resignation of President Donald Trump, according to the release.