NEW HAVEN, CT — Keesha De’Silva was looking at spending 120 days in jail after getting arrested for sleeping in a park hours after being evicted, but the Connecticut Bail Fund was able to get her out.
De’Silva is not unlike the dozens of other pretrial detainees the group hopes to help get home to their families this holiday season.
The Connecticut Bail Fund, which does this work all year long, has teamed up with a number of other human rights and workers rights organizations to raise $35,000 for what they’re calling the holiday bailout. The bailout was inspired by the National Black Mamas Bail Out to get black mothers out of jail in time for Mother’s Day.
Brett Davidson, one of the co-founders of the Connecticut Bail Fund, said they reached out to other organizations with a shared vision of a society free from mass incarceration, immigration enforcement, and criminalized poverty and are working on raising $35,000 to get as many people as they can out of pretrial and immigration detention.
“What they do is a Godsend because there aren’t always family members who can help,” De’Silva said.
Davidson said in De’Silva’s case it was “criminalization of homelessness.” He said the only reason she had contact with police was because she was evicted.
The state of Connecticut has been working to end pretrial detention of individuals unable to post bond because of they’re unable to afford it.
De’Silva said she would have been forced to take the 120 days at great risk to her health. De’Silva is a diabetic and a breast cancer survivor.
So far the holiday bailout has helped four individuals: two being held at New Haven Correctional Center, and two in immigration detention, according to Davidson.
They hope the money will help dozens more, but since each bail is set at a different amount it’s uncertain exactly how many.
The Holiday Bail Out will continue until Christmas.
De’Silva, who has previously spent time in jail during the holidays, said she’s truly blessed to be out. She said she lost her mother and grandmother while she was behind bars years ago.
Davidson said he hopes the bailout will help bring attention to the harms of pretrial detention. He said that often those who are detained on minor offenses because they don’t have the money to post bail lose their jobs, and sometimes they lose custody of their children.
He said that leads many to plead guilty when they’re innocent because they can’t fight their case from the inside.
Thousands of Connecticut residents are incarcerated every day because they cannot afford the bail, Davidson said.
Connecticut lawmakers thought they changed that earlier this year when they passed “An Act Concerning PreTrial Justice Reform.” However, Davidson said there are so many “carve outs” in who would qualify that it’s virtually insignificant in the number of pretrial detainees.
The law, which went into effect in July, essentially prohibits a court from imposing financial conditions on a defendant charged only with a misdemeanor unless the person is charged with a family violence crime. The law also eliminated cash-only bonds, but the language needed to be amended in the budget Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed on Oct. 31.
At the moment, statistics from the state show the number of people being held on bond is about the same as it was a year ago. However, state officials expect that number will decrease before next year.
Meanwhile, challenges still exist for those released.
De’Silva said she’s still struggling to come up with the $750 she needs for a security deposit on a new apartment, but she’s lined up the first month of rent. She said it’s not easy on the outside, but it’s a lot harder on the inside.
The Connecticut Bail Fund has gotten 79 individuals out of jail since it started in November 2016.
Davidson said they are well-known with the homeless community in New Haven and get referrals from public defenders and others who are aware of the organization. They also look at publicly available state data about pretrial detainees to determine if any fit their criteria for a bailout.
He said the families of the immigration detainees usually contact the organization seeking help, and bail for those detainees is usually much higher than those being held by the state.
The other organizations involved in raising the money for the bailout includes Connecticut Students for a Dream, Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, Unidad Latina en Acción, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Connecticut Working Families, CT Shoreline Indivisible, Make the Road CT, CTCORE-Organize Now!, Sex Workers and Allies Network (SWAN), National Lawyers Guild-Yale Law School Chapter, Hamden Plains United Methodist Church, and Summerfield United Methodist Church.
Those interested in more information can visit the website.