Often, the conversation surrounding mass incarceration as a whole is problematic. We don’t always account for all of the small systems within it that allow it to be the beast that it is. One of those systems is cash bail. Cash bail isn’t intended to be a problem, but for low-income folks, that’s exactly what it becomes.
Cash bail happens before trial to ensure that defendants come to court to settle their charges, the alternative being that they’re held in jail until the bail fee is addressed. Unfortunately, if they cannot afford the bail amount, this can force low-income people to miss work, lose time with their children and otherwise have their lives unfairly destabilized.
A prime and heartbreaking example of this system at work is Kalief Browder, the young man from the Bronx who was held on Rikers Island in New York City for three years at only 16 years old for a crime he maintained he did not commit, simply because he couldn’t meet his $3,000 bail. Browder committed suicide in 2015 after his release.
According to Teen Vogue, organizers across the country have begun community bail funds to aid in fixing this problem. Even better, there are now apps which allow you to donate to the cause.
The first app, Bail Bloc, is a computer app project from The New Inquiry that uses cryptocurrency to convert your computer’s unused energy stores into funding for the Bronx Freedom Fund and eventually a nationwide initiative, the Bail Project. Once downloaded, the app takes advantage of your computer’s unused processing power to “mine” a secure, private and untraceable cryptocurrency called Monero. Cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin) isn’t “real money,” but can be exchanged for real money. At the end of each month, Bail Bloc exchanges the Monero for real money, which it then puts toward bail funds.
The second app, Appolition is also focused on ending cash bail using a different method. This mobile app automatically donates your spare charge to a bail fund. The app is said to allow you to make an encrypted connection with the account you use for your daily purchases (any purchase over $1.80 qualifies); the app will then round all your purchases up to the nearest dollar and then — once you reach at least $2 in accumulated spare change — will donate the money to bail funds. The app is modeled after savings apps that also reallocate your spare change.
By allowing people to have the ability to attend their court date, the number of people being convicted drops drastically. While both apps are fresh and new, they are adding a powerful tool to the issue of combating a rigged system.