APR 02, 2018 11:42 AM PDT

With This App, Your Spare Change Pays Inmates' Bail

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

America’s mass incarceration rates set world records. The money bail system keeps many untried individuals in prison, and it disproportionately affects people of color. The app Appolition creates an easy solution for those who want to help out inmates in the spirit of a community bail fund. It does this by rounding purchases up to the nearest dollar and donating the change to National Bail Out, a grassroots organization that bails people out of local jails and immigration detention centers with the overarching goal of getting them home for the holidays.

image of person in prison, credit: Chenôve TabJeunesse

"I was inspired by the work of National Bail Out and their work in bringing together Black-led community bail funds to provide relief for Black folks who needed support,” Appolition co-founder Kortney Ziegler told Konbini. He launched the app with Tiffany Mikell in 2017.

U.S. Prison Rates

The U.S. has the highest prison population rate in the world, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies, with 716 out of every 100,000 people imprisoned. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the total population, they make up 60 percent of the imprisoned population.

The American Civil Liberties Union finds that men of color account for a disproportionately large portion of this group, at the rate of one in 15 Black men and one in 36 Hispanic men, compared to one in 106 white men imprisoned. Also, in 2014, the imprisonment rate for Black women was more than twice that of White women. Hispanic women’s rate was 1.2 times the rate of White women, The Sentencing Project reports.

How Appolition Works

An Appolition user links their credit or debit card and bank account of preference to the app, a process the site states takes less than one minute. An encrypted connection protects sensitive data and banking information never “touches” the app system. All the purchases made with a linked card will be rounded up to the nearest dollar. When a user has 50¢ stored up, it will automatically be contributed to National Bail Out. Donations can stop and start at any time and Appolition accepts one-time or recurring donations as well.

Bail Reform

“Cash bail results in excessive detention, wealth- and race-based discrimination and high costs to taxpayers and communities. Nearly two-thirds of the people in jails in the United States have not been convicted of a crime,” according to a Harvard Law Review analysis. People in New York City were nine times more likely to plead guilty to a misdemeanor if they couldn’t make bail and remained incarcerated before their court proceedings, based on Brooklyn Defender Services 2013 data gathered by the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund.

Some states, including Oregon, New Jersey and West Virginia, have implemented bail reform tactics such as personalized risk assessments for detainees and more comprehensive pretrial services and supervision. In support of these types of changes, Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act in 2017 “to encourage states to reform or replace the bail system.”

“Excessive bail disproportionately harms people from low-income communities and communities of color,” Harris and Paul wrote in The New York Times. They also explain that the bail system is a burden on taxpayers. People awaiting trial make up 95 percent of the jail population’s growth from 2000 to 2014, and imprisoning them costs about $14 billion annually.

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech and conservation.
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