‘Mama’s Day Bail Out’ frees women from jail

Natalie Chandler sat in the courtroom at 201 Poplar Wednesday after spending the night in jail. The 35-yearold was charged with assault after a fight, and her bond was set at $100.

Erica Perry, an organizer with Official Black Lives Matter in Memphis, approached Chandler’s attorney to ask about the group paying her bond. She then talked to Chandler, who was grateful for Perry’s offer to pay. This is the third year the local chapter of Official Black Lives Matter has bailed mothers out of jail so they can be home with their children and families before Mother’s Day.

Since 2017, the group has bailed 30 people out of jail in Memphis in its ongoing effort to end cash bail. “We see $100 bonds a lot,” Perry said. “It is frustrating and a waste of time for everyone. Why not just release them on their own recognizance?”

Perry and Shahida Jones, both with the Official Black Lives Matter Memphis chapter, said this week the group plans to bail six women out as part of a national “Mama’s Day Bail Out” campaign. In several cities across the country, organizations working through the National Bail Out Collective are working to free mothers in time for Mother’s Day.

“No mother or caregiver belongs in a cage,” Perry said. “Some of the women have to choose between medicine, food or getting out of jail. That is not right. We will continue our effort to end cash money bail and keeping people charged with misdemeanors in jail because they don’t have the ability to pay bail.”

As of Wednesday, Shelby County jail records showed 260 women at Jail East. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, as of October 2017, 219,000 women were
locked up in prisons and jails across the country. About 96,000 of that total were in local jails, and 58,000 of them had not been convicted of a crime. Chandler was the first mother Perry bonded out of jail. It took Perry less than 30 minutes to pay Chandler’s $100 bond.

Perry said the process, through a partnership with the Mid-South Peace and Justice System, has gotten easier. This was the first bailout event this year for Perry, but she said the organization is planning another event June 19 – Juneteenth – when both men and women will be bailed out if their bond is $10,000 or less.

The organization also is planning a “homecoming” celebration May 18 for the women bailed out for Mother’s Day. Funding for the bonds is coming from donations and fundraisers, Perry said. To donate, visit midsouthpeace.org/ blm or contact the group at blacklivesmattermemphis@gmail.com

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