Philly Nonprofit to Bail Out More Than Two Dozen People in City Jails Amid COVID-19 Outbreak



WHYY: Aaron Moselle - December 11, 2020


In the middle of an outbreak of COVID-19 inside city jails, the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund hopes to free nearly 30 incarcerated people on Saturday.


The nonprofit has brought home 325 people since the start of the pandemic, but never more than a few at a time. Cara Tratner, an organizer with the bail fund, said conditions on State Road, the site of the city’s jail compound in Northeast Philadelphia, necessitated a mass bailout.


“This is the most dire circumstances we’ve seen yet,” said Tratner.


As of Friday morning, 197 incarcerated people were actively infected with COVID-19, according to the city. More than 90% of them are classified as asymptomatic.


On Nov. 22, the city reported a total of 21 active coronavirus cases.


Citing privacy concerns, the city does not specify how many staffers have contracted the highly contagious virus. Those cases are folded into the overall total reported by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.


Tratner’s group is on its way to raising approximately $250,000 to free Black and brown women and transgender people from three facilities, including one with dormitory-style cells that house four women in the same space.


Like the overwhelming majority of county prisoners, everyone who will be released on Saturday is pretrial, meaning they have yet to be convicted of crimes. And all of them are locked up because they can’t afford the bail amount set by a judge.


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