Film viewing of “ACTIVATE: Ending Cash Bail”

Last week, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center held a viewing of the film ACTIVATE: Ending Cash Bail, sponsored by P&G, in partnership with National Geographic and The Global Citizen Movement. The film shows how artists and activists, like musicians Common and Usher, team up with The Global Citizen Movement and other grassroots organizers to achieve historic criminal justice reform through ending the use of cash bail in New York State.

The common practice of holding individuals accused of a crime in jail until their sentencing hearing has been debated for decades. And, in recent years, the conversation has gained traction. According to the most current information found in the Justice Department's report, Jail Inmates in 2017, nearly 450,000 people who have not been convicted of a crime sit in jail simply because they don’t have enough money to post bail.

In the beginning of 2018, California’s appellate court declared that no one could be jailed because they’re too poor to pay, which set a new standard of accountability for judges, forcing them to demonstrate why someone should be held in jail rather than sent home to await their sentencing date.

After the film’s presentation at The Freedom Center, a spirited panel discussion was hosted by Local 12 news anchor Kyle Inskeep. The panel consisted of Barron Witherspoon, Global VP of Industry Affairs & Corporate Race Initiative; local attorney Alicia Miller; and Crystal Kendrick, president of The Voice of Your Customer.

The panel not only fielded Inskeep’s questions but also took questions from the audience, speaking on the root causes that perpetuate the commonality of cash bail like institutional racism and racial profiling. In addition, the panel dissected different perspectives of the issue and gave reason to the presence of bias when bail amounts are issued.

According to Miller, “There are times when this does happen. Many times bail is determined by the defendant’s criminal history.”

She went on to explain that if a defendant with little to no criminal history appears before a judge next to a person accused of the same crime who has a long criminal history, then the latter would be more likely to receive a higher bail.

According to IBISWorld, the Bail Bond Services industry is estimated to grow to $2.3 billion by the end of 2019 — nearly all of it coming from low-income communities of color who are hit hardest by mass incarceration, the war on drugs, and other public policies that disproportionately target them, making the dismantling of the commercial bail industry a seemingly insurmountable task.

This isn’t P&G’s first time facilitating inclusion and equity through the medium of short film. The consumer products giant released The Talk and The Look, both covering the everyday conversations and experiences people of color have that sometimes go unnoticed and unheard. Both short films were included in the night’s presentation.

Read more articles by Kareem A. Simpson.

Raised in the inner city of Covington, Kentucky, Kareem Simpson is an author, innovator, community enthusiast, military veteran, serial entrepreneur, foodie and lover of all things creative.