Local organization bails out defendants for the holidays

Local organization bails out defendants for the holidays

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Just in time for the holidays at 201 Poplar, a man was arrested for shoplifting and couldn’t afford his $1,000 bond.

The non-profit Just City offered to pay the bail.

“Routinely we find people in jail who are only there because they are poor. They’re not dangerous. They’re not a flight risk, but they can’t afford to make bail,” said Josh Spickler, Just City executive director.

Spickler says the Just City Memphis Community bail fund limits the amount of bond posted to $5,000, and focuses on defendants with primarily non-violent charges. Just City only bails out people that are recommended to them by the Public Defender’s office.

However, Spickler says there isn’t enough money to bail out everyone.

“And when you separate families, it has a big impact on your community, an even bigger impact on that family,” said Spickler.

Spickler is fighting to get rid of the cash bail system in Tennessee.

He wants the Volunteer State to follow in the footsteps of California.

In 2018, California became the first state to allow a judge to decide whether a cash bail is needed based on an assessment of risk to public safety.

The move was met with some resistance at the time over fears of increasing failure to appear rates.

It's too soon to tell if the changes are working.

The law in California just went into effect in October of this year.

However, Spickler says of the 137 people his organization has bailed out since 2016 -- 90% of the defendants showed up for their court date after receiving bail.

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