After the governor failed to bring about bail reform this year, New Haveners have stepped up to start doing so on their own.
They have created the not-for-profit “Connecticut Bail Fund,” which will raise and distribute money to make sure that arrestees aren’t sitting in jail simply because they’re poor.
That happens a lot in Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy argued as he sought to win legislative approval to keep non-violent arrestees who can’t post bail out of detention before their day in court. The bail system, aimed at ensuring appearance in court, often puts the poor at a disadvantage: they remain in detention, face separation from families, and even lose their jobs. Malloy failed to convince legislators to approve his plan earlier this month.
Meanwhile, saying they aim to combat “wealth-based jailing,” organizers of the Connecticut Bail Fund are about to open for business in New Haven. The Connecticut Bail Fund will accept referrals from public defenders, screen clients, and pay the bail for those who qualify. It looks to expand to Bridgeport and Hartford in half a year.
The team has raised about $32,000 so far for posting bail. It will most likely begin service within two months. Sources of funding include fellowships from Yale’s Dwight Hall, the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, the Samuel Huntington Foundation, and a private donor in New Haven.
The fund’s four cofounders — Yalies Brett Davidson, Scott Greenberg, Patrick Sullivan, and Simone Seiver — explained the program at a meeting Wednesday night at the Dixwell Stetson branch library. They also listened to feedback from a group of 20 residents, students, and workers in the criminal justice system.
“We’ve read a lot of literature and we think we’ve got a pretty good sense of how bail fund works,” Yale senior Seiver said in an interview. “But if you have not heard from people about their firsthand experience with bail, you are not going to get a fully colored picture.”