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Why is Malcolm Jenkins bailing out Philly criminal defendants?

November 26, 2018, Samantha Melamed - The Philadelphia Inquirer

On Sunday afternoon, defensive back Malcolm Jenkins made a red-zone interception that could turn out to be a season-saving play for the Eagles. By Monday morning, he had turned his attention to a more serious matter — if such a thing is even possible in the city of Philadelphia.

Jenkins, a cofounder of the social-justice advocacy group, the Players Coalition, was at the Kensington nonprofit Impact Services to call for reforms to the city's money bail system, which he called unjust and racist. Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Jenkins and other Eagles players posted $25,000 — matched by another $25,000 from the Eagles Social Justice Fund — to bail out nine Philadelphians so they could be home with their families.

"This is easier to do after a win. I will say that," said Jenkins, who spoke alongside Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and Chief Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey, as well as community activists and members of the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, which handled the bailout.

He said the convening of officials and organizers was meant as a model that can be replicated around the country for community-led reform of the criminal justice system — beginning with its front door. The bailout was paired with a resource fair, so those who were released could gain access to workforce training and social services, which he said are vital to the success of the initiative.

"The cash bail system punishes poverty and … punishes people of color at a grossly disproportionate rate," Jenkins said. "Some people say we need the system to make our community safe — but as you can see here with these groups, we have everything we need to make our community safer, when we decide to invest in people and wrap our arms around people, as opposed to locking them up."

The Thanksgiving bailout was part largesse, part protest — against pretrial detentions that critics say are destabilizing and traumatic, and that have been found in Philadelphia to push poor defendants into guilty pleas at a rate that's 13 percent higher than those released before trial. For those who are sentenced, pretrial detention correlates with a 42-percent increase in the length of incarceration.

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