CALEB: Bail Fund

CALEB (Chattanoogans in Action for Love, Equality, and Benevolence) brings together an institutional coalition of faith-based, labor, and other community organizations in order that their constituents gain a powerful voice in public affairs and issues in the wider community.

CALEB is tackling the difficult challenge of the rising pre-trial incarceration rates that predominately impact the poorest in our community. In our community, nearly seven out of 10 people serving time are behind bars without having been tried or convicted of any crime. This leads to overcrowding in our county jail, lost productivity for our economy, and a bail structure that predominately keeps the poor behind bars—many of whom may have their charges dismissed.

The organization has launched the Hamilton County Bail Fund which will selectively screen candidates, referred by the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office, and post bails for individuals who have bails of less than $5,000. This is a potentially transformative program that will help relieve our criminal justice system of financial strain but also help low-risk incarcerated individuals remain productive members of society as they navigate their charges.

Since launching in October, CALEB has developed critical relationships with the Public Defender’s Office who will provide referrals to the organization to participate in the bail fund program. Furthermore, all of Hamilton County’s Criminal Court Judges have signed a petition allowing CALEB to operate as a non-profit bail fund, affording it special rights to sidestep certain court costs and other fees. Finally, CALEB anticipates having the capacity to post bail for over 40 qualifying defendants in 2019. Since launching, it has already posted bail for 9 defendants, two of whom have had their cases dismissed entirely.

CALEB’s bail fund was modeled after a similar program in Davidson County, the Nashville Community Bail Fund, which has posted bail for over 330 people. The program has seen substantial success, with over 97 percent of those bailed out making it to their court date and 25 percent of those supported defendants had their charges dismissed.

The Hamilton County Bail Fund has the opportunity to ensure that those who aren’t able to help themselves in a time of need can get back on their feet and remain economically independent while addressing their case before the court.

Request Amount: $100,000
Community Foundation Grant: $10,000
Total Raised: $70,000
Funding Gap: $30,000