When you think of Mother’s Day, you probably don’t think of someone sitting in jail. But the Northwest Community Bail Fund is hoping you will this year.
As part of a national effort, called 2018 Mama’s Day Bailout, the Seattle based nonprofit is trying to raise $10,000 for moms who are in jail awaiting trial because they can't afford bail.
The Northwest Community Bail Fund collects money specifically to bail out people charged with low level crimes in King and Snohomish counties.
Sarah Thomas, who is on the Advisory Board of the Northwest Community Bail Fund, says when mothers are arrested and kept locked up it can be particularly stressful, especially if she’s a single mom wondering where her kids will go.
“They might end up in foster care or might be just at a neighbor’s house with their mother frantically worried what’s happening to my child,” Thomas said.
According to research from the Pretrial Justice Institute, 80 percent of women incarcerated are mothers.
Thomas says paying for people’s bail helps make an inequitable system more equitable. Currently, she said, people who have money can get out and people who don’t have money cannot get out.
“It really doesn’t have anything to do with guilt or innocence, it's just if they have the money or not,” Thomas said. Thomas says the Northwest Community Bail Fund will cover bail up to $3,000.
For 10 years, Thomas worked as a public defender in Atlanta for clients charged with misdemeanors. She says she saw what happened when people couldn’t come up with money for bail.
“All of my clients, if they couldn’t pay bail and had ever been arrested, they were probably going to be in jail until they could get their cases resolved and, for most of them, they would plead guilty, whether they were guilty or not, because that was the fastest way to get out of jail,” Thomas said.
She says it's important to remember that when people are in jail awaiting trial, there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty.