Activists give jailed moms a Mother’s Day gift: bail
PHOENIX — Paz Lopez was set to spend Mother’s Day behind bars. The 42-year-old mother of six had been locked up in a Phoenix jail for the past month on forgery and other charges. She couldn’t post her $2,050 bail.
But on Thursday night she walked out and into a car waiting to give her a ride home, thanks to a drive to bail out moms so they can spend Mother’s Day with their kids. In a tearful video made immediately after her release, Lopez said it was a privilege that she would now get to see her children. She welled up when speaking about the coming birth of her first grandchild.
“There’s just no greater feeling than being a mother,” Lopez said. “I’m grateful for both of you to help me be able to spend the day with them and be able to see my grandchild be born.”
Lopez had her bail covered by Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA, a social and racial justice group. The organization said they were inspired to do this for a second year by an initiative known as “Black Mamas Bail Out,” which is posting bail for dozens of mothers of color for the third straight year.
The effort is organized by the National Bail Out collective, a coalition of various grassroots groups, attorneys and activists nationwide. The campaign hopes to bail out more than 100 women in 35 cities in time for Mother’s Day. The objective is not just to reunite families but to push for change in the cash bail system.
Critics contend the nation’s courts are unfairly punishing poor defendants by setting high bail for low-level crimes that causes them to languish in jail for months, separating them from their jobs and families. In some cases, they remain locked up until their case is dismissed or they take a guilty plea just so they can get out of jail, albeit with a criminal record. There has been a national push to reform bail by advocates who say incarceration should depend on a suspect’s risk to public safety, not the ability to pay.
Mary Hooks, co-director of Atlanta-based Southerners On New Ground, came up with the idea in 2016. She joined with Law For Black Lives, a female-led network of lawyers and legal advocates, to bring together a collective of organizations. It’s been difficult at times to get sympathy, she said, because people often think someone sitting in jail pre-trial must have done something wrong.
“We’re in a political time right now where ‘Barbecue Becky’ or anyone else can call the police on someone and you can get arrested instantly for barbecuing,” Hooks said, referring to the white woman who called police on two black men using a grill in an Oakland, California, park. The men were not arrested. “This notion ‘you’re in jail because you’ve done something horrible,’ we have to remind ourselves we have a Constitution that says ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ ”
Jaymeshia Jordan, of Oakland, said she would have faced another 10 months in jail if she hadn’t been rescued by a bailout two days before last Mother’s Day by Oakland advocacy group Essie Justice Group. Jordan, who declined to say what she was arrested for, faced a $450,000 bail. She had no way of paying even a fraction of that on her own or with a bail bondsman.