The Bail Project

Freedom should be free.

Venice, CA   |  bailproject.org

Mission

The Bail Project is a national nonprofit organization designed to combat mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system — one person at a time. We believe that paying bail for someone in need is an act of resistance against a system that criminalizes race and poverty and an act of solidarity with local communities and movements for decarceration. Over the next five years, The Bail Project will open dozens of sites in high-need jurisdictions with the goal of paying bail for tens of thousands of low-income people. We won’t stop until meaningful change is achieved and the presumption of innocence is no longer for sale.

Ruling year info

2017

CEO

Robin Steinberg

Main address

PO Box 750

Venice, CA 90294 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

81-4985512

NTEE code info

Human Service Organizations (P20)

Civil Rights, Social Action, and Advocacy N.E.C. (R99)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2019 and 2018.
Register now

Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Bail Project is challenging the harmful and unjust cash bail system that criminalizes race and poverty. Over the past 20 years, pretrial detention has accounted for nearly all jail growth in the U.S. On any given night in America, about 460,000 people sit behind bars awaiting trials. Most are there because judges have set cash bail beyond their reach. Even one night in jail can devastate a person’s life trajectory. Inside jail, people risk sexual violence, the deterioration of their mental and physical health, and the infliction of lasting trauma. Being detained pretrial also increases a defendant’s likelihood of being found guilty and increases their sentence duration. Individuals also face enormous pressure to plead guilty and accept a wrongful or unjust conviction simply to go home. While judges have broad discretion to release people before trial without a financial requirement, they use it in only 20% to 25% of cases nationwide.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

National Revolving Bail Fund

Today in America, two people charged with exactly the same thing will experience different justice systems based on the size of their bank account and the color of their skin.

For many people in jail, poverty is the only thing standing in the way of their freedom. Over the past 20 years, pretrial detention has accounted for nearly all jail growth across the U.S. The legal system is penalizing those who are living in poverty and further entrenching people into oppressive systems, jeopardizing their physical health, access to resources, and burdening them with many other forms of oppression.

The Bail Project raises donations for its National Revolving Bail Fund in order to post bail for people while they await their trials. Because bail is returned at the end of a case, donations to the National Revolving Bail Fund can be recycled and reused to pay bail two to three times per year, maximizing the impact of every dollar. 100% of online donations are used to bring people home.

The Bail Project is an unprecedented national effort to combat wealth-based detention. The Bail Project has already established more than two dozen sites across the U.S. In the coming years, we will continue growing and providing bail assistance for tens of thousands of low-income people.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Economically disadvantaged people
Low-income people
Incarcerated people

Once we secure the freedom for someone, we support them in coming back to court and we work with local partners to provide wrap-around services if needed. We call this model Community Release with Support. Here’s how it works:

Bail Assistance: Once someone is referred to The Bail Project, a member of our staff will schedule an interview to learn more about the person’s situation and needs. If eligible for our program, we post bail directly to the court at no cost to the person or their family.

Court Support: We provide court notifications and transportation assistance to help our clients return to court and resolve their cases. If obstacles arise, we help problem-solve.

Client Advocacy: In addition to court support, we use an individualized needs assessment to connect our clients to voluntary services and resources based on their self-identified needs, including housing, substance use treatment, employment, and mental health care.

Impact: Our approach is community-based and needs-focused. On average, our clients return to about 90% of their court dates without having a financial obligation to us or the courts, laying waste to the myth that money is what makes people come back. Learn more here at AfterCashBail.org.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Ethnic and racial groups
Economically disadvantaged people
Low-income people
Incarcerated people

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of clients served

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Ethnic and racial groups, Economically disadvantaged people, Incarcerated people

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of program sites

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Ethnic and racial groups, Economically disadvantaged people, Incarcerated people

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

The number of jurisdictions where programs are in operation. Programs may be operated by The Bail Project or a partnership organization.

Percentage of court appearances that clients attend.

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Ethnic and racial groups, Economically disadvantaged people, Incarcerated people

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Percentage of court appearances that did not result in a bench warrant issued for a failure to appear.

Percentage of clients who resolve their court cases and have all cases dismissed.

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Ethnic and racial groups, Economically disadvantaged people, Incarcerated people

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our goal is to secure freedom for as many people as possible and to fuel momentum for equal justice. In this work, we are addressing the historical mass incarceration of people of color and people living in poverty and proving that the cash bail system is not a tool for justice.

What We Aim to Accomplish

The Bail Project combats mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system—one person at a time. We post bail for clients who can’t afford it, and when they return to court the money is returned to the fund to be used to post bail for someone else.

Through our National Revolving Bail Fund, we aim to pay bail for tens of thousands of low-income individuals—who are also disproportionately people of color—who are legally presumed innocent, and whom a judge has deemed eligible for release from jail before trial contingent on paying bail. Through our model of Community Release with Support, we connect our clients to voluntary services and resources and provide them with court reminders and transportation assistance for the duration of their case. Through these efforts, our clients are released to the safety of their loved ones and have fairer and more positive court case outcomes.

Through the delivery of our services, The Bail Project will create a nationally representative set of proof points to show that cash bail is not required to ensure appearance in court. These efforts will motivate replacing cash bail with broad adoption of the Community Release with Support model. Additional outcomes will include reducing racial/ethnic disparities and divestment of funds from the criminal legal system and reinvestment into community-based services and organizations.

Our clients’ case outcomes demonstrate that cash bail is unnecessary and unjust. Nationally, about one in three of The Bail Project’s clients have all their cases dismissed. Overall, of our clients whose cases have closed, about 90% are not required to spend any additional time in jail.

We post bail for clients, and then we support them as they await their court dates. Community Release with Support uses a case management approach to help people access care, assistance, and return to court. We find that many times all that is needed is a simple court reminder to help someone make their court date.

Although bail funds are powerful tools to end the immediate human suffering of people locked in jail cells, our ultimate goal is to put ourselves out of business by igniting and moving forward long-term policy change and eliminating cash bail.

Reducing Inequality

Across the country, Black and Brown people account for more than 50% of the pretrial population and up to 90% in some jurisdictions where we operate. To date across all of our sites, more than two-thirds of our clients are Black or Brown.

In a study by the U.S. Federal Reserve, 40% of adults, if faced with an unexpected $400 expense, would face difficulties coming up with the money.

The Bail Project clients are low-income, 21% of our clients are women, and almost half are between the ages of 26 to 40 years old. The majority (70%) have children. For many people we serve, the financial burden of cash bail is too heavy and the only option is to remain in jail for days, or months, awaiting the resolution of one’s case. Faced with this option, many plead guilty to secure their release and face the collateral impact that criminal records bring to their future employment, housing, and economic opportunities.

Our nation has created a two-tier system of justice: one for those living comfortably, and one for those living in poverty. Jail doesn’t just impact the person right now—being detained decreases lifetime earnings and makes it more likely that that person will return to jail in the future. Hundreds of thousands of Americans, mostly those living in poverty and mostly people of color, are caught in a flawed system that cycles them in and out of jail. The Bail Project is fighting this injustice.

Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Not only is bail inequitable, it also doesn’t serve its intended purpose. Though the historical intent of bail was to ensure that an individual has a personal incentive to return to court, our model has proved that wrong. Nationally, our clients appear for about 90% of their required court appearances even though they have no financial stake on the line. Despite being ineffective, local governments pour an alarming amount of money into pretrial detention. Jurisdictions spend more than $38 million each day to detain people presumed innocent who are waiting for their day in court. Moreover, researchers have found that keeping people out of jail pretrial yields a net benefit between $55,000 and $99,000 per person.

The Bail Project is committed to achieving justice for all. Since January 2018, The Bail Project has grown to serve 27 jurisdictions across the U.S. Our staff of Bail Disruptors has freed over 17,500 people, while providing them with court reminders, transportation assistance, and referrals to social services as needed, using our model of Community Release with Support. Through these efforts, we have prevented the harm of more than 100,000 days in jail for our clients—stopping the disruption incarceration brings to families, communities, and the labor market.

The work we are doing is providing a roadmap for our nation to operate the legal system in a more humane, dignified, and equitable way. To learn more about our policy vision, visit AfterCashBail.org.

The Bail Project consists of a central “Support Hub” and a growing network of local staff advocates—Bail Disruptors and Client Advocates—working in their communities. We are scaling nationally to build a representative portfolio of sites that includes jurisdictions with diverse demographics, sizes, and geographies. Our staff is now more than 100 people strong, making a difference in local communities and advocating for bail reform nationwide. We are committed to having a staff that is inclusive, diverse, and able to work effectively across cultures, and we seek the candidacy of people of color, women, people who are LGBTQ+, and directly impacted individuals.

A key element of our Community Release with Support model is removing the most common barriers to court date appearance through court reminders and free or subsidized transportation to court. An additional critical element of our model is to provide a reproducible, holistic, and client-centric approach that assures our clients receive the services they identify as needing to succeed outside of jail. Bail Disruptors conduct outreach, identify quality service providers, and offer voluntary referrals to these organizations.

Data is at the center of how The Bail Project learns, adapts, and improves. We track our clients' court experiences and supportive services in a central database and collect additional administrative data to understand the context of the legal systems in the jurisdictions where we work. To ensure equity, we conduct analyses of key demographics to determine service delivery disparities and overrepresentation of people of color in jails or other harmful pretrial detention contexts. We gather client feedback and conduct regular community asset mapping to gather information from stakeholders on the local networks that are key for building advocacy partnerships.

The Bail Project conducts strategic communications work—including message framing, media relations, multimedia storytelling, and social media—aimed at communicating our impact and building public support for our policy recommendations. We work carefully across the nation to disseminate our findings and raise awareness around this issue of pretrial mass incarceration.

Our model is sustainable. We raise donations to post bail for people while they await their trials. Because bail is returned at the end of a case, donations to The Bail Project’s National Revolving Bail Fund can be recycled and reused to pay bail two to three times per year, maximizing the impact of every dollar. 100% of online donations are used to bring people home.

Since launching in 2018, we’ve already posted bail for more than 17,500 people in 27 locations! All the while, we track data and court appearance rates to show that cash bail is not serving its intended purpose. Our clients have a court appearance rate of about 90% even though they have no financial obligation to us.

To date we have supported thousands of clients to resolve their cases in court. We are also advocating for bail reform locally and nationally, and have seen movement in bail reform. Here are some examples:

- In New York, we made the strategic decision to stop posting bail for new clients through The Bronx Freedom Fund after the passage of historic pretrial reform in 2019, which eliminated cash bail in New York for the vast majority of cases—including nearly all of the misdemeanor charges for which The Bronx Freedom Fund could post. We use this as a successful model for what a revolving bail fund could be.

- Illinois recently passed the Pretrial Fairness Act, which will completely eliminate the use of cash bail in the state. As we wait for this bill to go into effect in 2023, our team will continue doing bailouts in Chicago while also working to shape what bail reform's implementation looks like, advocating for a more humane, equitable pretrial system. We look forward to winding down our operations in Illinois once bailouts are no longer necessary.

- In St. Louis, The Bail Project advocated to close the Workhouse jail, a notorious institution for pretrial detention that has ensnared generations of Black and low-income people in St. Louis into a cycle of incarceration, trauma, and poverty. Finally, after countless hours of organizing, bailing people out of the facility, and applying pressure, the decision was made to close the Workhouse jail at the end of 2020. This victory is due to the hard work of the Black-led Close The Workhouse campaign, of which The Bail Project – St. Louis is a primary partner, and creates the opportunity for investment in community-based resources to help St. Louis’ most marginalized. The Bail Project continues to provide court notifications and support for existing clients.

In February 2020, The Bail Project published “After Cash Bail: A Framework for Reimagining Pretrial Justice” (see AfterCashBail.org). Developed in collaboration with staff across all levels of the organization, this white paper outlines our vision for the policies that we want jurisdictions to adopt and implement instead of cash bail and offers guidelines for implementing meaningful bail reform.

As part of our advocacy efforts to approach justice in a more humane way, we are raising awareness for the health threats of COVID in jails and advocating for decreasing jail populations and improving pretrial systems during the pandemic. To this end, The Bail Project has supported mass releases in different sites by offering The Bail Project’s Community Release with Support model to individuals who were released even without bail.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    We address inequities in the legal system. The people we serve are stuck in jail simply because they cannot afford to pay the cost of their freedom: bail. We post bail for clients who cannot afford it, provide support and resources, and when they return to court the money is returned to the fund to be used to post bail for someone else. All of our clients are living in poverty and are low-income. Our clients are predominantly from communities of color—67% are Black or Brown. About one in five of our clients are women, almost half are between the ages of 26 to 40 years-old, and the majority (70%) have children.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Case management notes,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    In focus groups, clients shared that their experience with incarceration made them hesitant to trust or be open with individuals or organizations offering support during their detention. Some clients shared that they were wary of us. Some were concerned that the information they share or services they accept could negatively impact opportunities for release or case outcomes. Based on this feedback, we updated our communications and informational resources to clarify and confirm that The Bail Project is not in any way connected to the criminal legal system, that we are not part of the bail bonds industry, and our services are offered at no charge. We presented client feedback to staff so they would understand the possible hesitancy of clients. We use this information in staff trainings.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff, Our board, Our funders,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    We have received direct feedback from clients that being asked their opinions, experiences, beliefs, feelings, and feedback makes clients feel valued. We have also received feedback from clients that asking for their feedback shows that we see clients as more than their court case - they are our equals. When we ask clients for feedback, we are re-empowering their perspective and bringing more meaning to their experience. In our work, we are repeatedly shifting power to our clients. We elevate our clients to contribute wisdom, experience, and power to inform our decisions, programming, and policies.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback,

Financials

The Bail Project
lock

Unlock financial insights by subscribing to our monthly plan.

Subscribe

Unlock nonprofit financial insights that will help you make more informed decisions. Try our monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights?
Learn more about GuideStar Pro.

Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

The Bail Project

Board of directors
as of 8/23/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Michael Novogratz

Galaxy Investment Partners

Term: 2017 -

Donna Byrd

BlueButterfly

Lili Lynton

The Dinex Group

Vincent Southerland

Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU Law

Liz Luckett

The Social Entrepreneurs' Fund

Robin Steinberg

The Bail Project

Brian Chapman

Columbia University

Lisa Gersh

Hasbro

Reginald Betts

Million Book Project, Yale Law School

Michael Novogratz

Galaxy Investment Partners

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 08/17/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 08/17/2021

Policies and practices developed in partnership with Equity in the Center, a project that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems within the social sector to increase racial equity. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.