Nashville Community Bail Fund Launches as Independent Org

MEMPHIS, Tenn. The Nashville Community Bail Fund, started by Memphis-based criminal justice reform advocacy group Just City, has become a standalone nonprofit organization. The fund began in June of 2016 with Nashville-based funding and leadership and has freed more than 100 people from pre-trial detention. More than 97 percent of those people returned to court.

The Nashville Community Bail Fund was one of the first community bail funds in the South and exists to challenge the wealth-based system of pre-trial detention used by the vast majority of criminal justice systems.

“Across the country, there is a growing movement of community-based bail funds that are helping to free people and fight to end the money bail system,” said Pilar Weiss, director of the National Bail Fund Network. “To win change at the local level, we know that the importance of bail funds’ being locally based and community-driven cannot be overstated. Just City has set an example of how developing and incubating innovative pilot projects can lead to creating local capacity and solutions.

Gicola Lane will continue in her role as Nashville bail reform advocate and manager of the fund. “Nearly all of the people we have freed were charged with low-level offenses and were being detained for one reason and one reason alone – they and their families lacked the resources to pay bail,” Lane said. “Almost without exception, they have returned to court and answered to the charges against them. The current system is not fair to them or to the broader Nashville community, and it must change.”

Daniel Kiel, chair of the Just City board of directors, added, “Just City was proud to offer its support to launch the Nashville Community Bail Fund. We will continue to seek community-based solutions to the problems presented by the criminal justice system, and we have no doubt that the fund and its leadership will relentlessly pursue bail reform for the Nashville community. We support them every step of the way.”

ABOUT JUST CITY. Just City was founded in 2015 by a group of activists, attorneys and civic leaders. Our mission is to advance policies and programs within Shelby County and the state of Tennessee that strengthen the right to counsel and mitigate the damage caused to families and neighborhoods as a result of contact with the criminal justice system.

ABOUT THE NASHVILLE COMMUNITY BAIL FUND. The Nashville Community Bail Fund works with the Nashville Defenders and other advocates to identify and pay bail for people held in the Metro Nashville Davidson County Jail.

For more information, visit JustCity.org or NashvilleBailFund.org.