Robin Steinberg: What if we ended the injustice of bail?
Robin Steinberg - Public defender, activist
Robin Steinberg is the CEO of The Bail Project, a new organization designed to combat mass incarceration in the United States by disrupting the money bail system -- one person at a time. As she says: "I hate injustice and simply can't sit still when I see it." Full bio
I visited a client in jail.
had a sticky film on it
was a small window placed too high to see.
bolted to the floor
I understood viscerally --
as a young, public defender
ever forget that feeling.
and every one of my clients' freedom
to the American psyche
more people per capita
is that on any given night in America,
in those concrete jail cells
and sons and daughters
and one reason only:
the price of their freedom.
as a form of conditional release.
that somebody could afford to pay --
to come back to court;
to be used as punishment.
to hold people in jail cells.
to create a two-tier system of justice:
and one for everybody else.
in American local jails
in his South Bronx neighborhood
to pick up a quart of milk.
why he was being stopped,
and the next thing he knew,
your bicycle on the sidewalk
was sent to "The Boat" --
that sits on the East River
that sits out there
even for a few days.
losing custody of your children.
victimization by jail staff
if you're held in jail on bail,
to get a jail sentence
will be three times longer.
and cash bail has been set,
to remain stuck in that jail cell
dehumanizing and violent experience.
that it's you stuck in that jail cell,
the 500 dollars to get out.
and offers you a way out.
would do in that situation.
whether you did it or not.
for the rest of your life.
enough money to pay bail
immoral things we do as a society.
holding people in jail cells
is it doesn't make us any safer.
that holding somebody in jail
to commit a crime when you get out
have known that for generations.
to buy their loved ones freedom
and jail cells existed.
has grown too enormous,
has been the result --
for over half my life,
thousands of clients
enough money to pay bail.
were subsumed by questions of money,
of the entire American legal system.
I was wrestling with over a decade ago
with my husband, David,
and venting about the injustice of it all
our clients out of jail?"
Freedom Fund was born.
that told us we were crazy
to lose all of the money.
because they didn't have any stake in it.
at the end of a criminal case,
for more and more bail.
residents of New York City,
has exploded our ideas
legal system itself is operated.
people come back to court.
the Bronx Freedom Fund pays bail,
return for every court appearance,
that it's money that mattered.
that we don't need cash
of surveillance and supervision.
about when to come back to court.
in jail on a misdemeanor,
of the Bronx Freedom Fund,
have ever received a jail sentence
locked in that jail cell.
intervened and paid his bail.
his case from outside.
Freedom Fund was a lifeline,
locked in jail cells,
revolving bail-fund model
of the legal system
as many people as we can
and local community organizations,
in high-need jurisdictions.
at the end of a case.
two or three times a year,
to pay bail for up to 15 people
and the wisdom and the leadership
this injustice firsthand.
by a team of bail disrupters.
advocates from local communities,
through the legal system,
resources and support they may need.
disrupter in Queens County, New York.
and Louisville, Kentucky.
the money bail system
critical, national data
a better path forward
of oppression in just another form.
over the next five years,
from decades in the system:
the civil rights litigators,
the media, the philanthropists,
of those who are impacted by this system.
in those jail cells,
on bail bondage, right now --
to dream big and fight hard,
are a reality in America.
About the speaker:Robin Steinberg - Public defender, activist
Robin Steinberg is the CEO of The Bail Project, a new organization designed to combat mass incarceration in the United States by disrupting the money bail system -- one person at a time. As she says: "I hate injustice and simply can't sit still when I see it."
Why you should listen
Robin Steinberg is the CEO of The Bail Project and a senior fellow at the UCLA Law Criminal Justice Program. As she writes: "When I started my career, all I wanted was to be a great public defender for my clients. I vowed to fight for their rights, dignity and humanity in a system that seemed intent on crushing them, their families and their communities. It was hard work, but I woke up everyday inspired and with a sense of purpose -- even when the unfairness of the system made me cry. I was doing my part in the larger struggle for social justice -- one client at a time. But the need to do more, to rethink the very nature of public defense and challenge the larger systemic issues that fueled the cycle of criminalization and poverty led me to start The Bronx Defenders in 1997. For 20 years, I worked to create a new vision of public defense, extending legal representation and advocacy beyond criminal court with the goal of breaking that cycle. That process led to the founding of several new initiatives, including Still She Rises, a public defender office dedicated exclusively to the representation of women in the criminal justice system, and The Bronx Freedom Fund, a revolving bail fund that used philanthropic dollars to pay bail for clients who couldn’t buy their freedom.
"As it turns out, what I love most is getting people out of jail so they can be home with their families and have a fighting chance in court. My new organization, The Bail Project, will take the lessons we learned in the Bronx and go to dozens of high-need jurisdictions with the goal of paying bail for 160,000 people over the next five years, disrupting the bail system, reducing the human suffering it causes and continuing the fight to decarcerate America."
Robin Steinberg | Speaker | TED.com