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These apps help fight mass incarceration by donating to bail funds for low-income people

November 28, 2017

Fast-forward past lengthy crowdfunding campaigns and uncertainty about where your money goes when you choose to donate to a particular cause, two apps are helping low-income citizens combat predatory profit-driven arrest fees, like cash bail. A cash bail is the fees someone must pay in order to be released from jail prior to being convicted of a crime. This is done to ensure that the defendants return to court to settle their charges (instead of, say, fleeing to Mexico). Alternatively, defendants can be held in jail until and if the bail fee is addressed. Meaning a defendant can stay in jail until their court date all without being convicted of a crime. According to The New York Times Magzine, at any given time there are approximately 450,000 people are being held in pretrial incarceration. A number which includes those who are being held for being too poor to afford bail.

The consequences of pretrial incarcerations are not limited to the financial burden of getting released, for many it spirals into the displacement of family members, missed work, lost jobs, and worse. Not to mention the psychological toll of being imprisoned at all. The story of Kalief Browder, a then 16-year-old from the Bronx who was held on Rikers Island for three years, for a crime he did not commit. All because he could not afford a $3,000 bail. Browder’s story of dehumanization, brutality, and struggles with mental illness which led to his suicide in 2015 has been a catalyst for abolition activists and organizers across the country. One of those projects is the Bronx Freedom Fund, a community bail fund that has worked in partnership with Browder’s family.

Now the fund is being used as a bridge between two digital apps, Bail Bloc and the Bail Project. The idea is that Bail Bloc uses cryptocurrency and converts your computer’s unused energy stores into funding for the Bronx Freedom Fund who, in turn, pays it forward to the Bail Project.

According to TeenVogue, “Once downloaded, the app takes advantage of your computer’s unused processing power to “mine” a secure, private, and untraceable cryptocurrency called Monero. Cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin) isn’t “real money,” per se, but it can be exchanged for real money. At the end of each month, Bail Bloc exchanges the Monero for real money, which it then puts toward bail funds.” If funds go unused, they are returned to the source if clients have settled their chargers or had charges dropped, pre-trail.

The second of two apps is Appolition. A technically simpler app that donates your spare change to a bail fund. Through the app, users can make an encrypted connection with the bank account you use for your daily transactions and through it, each purchase of $1.80 or more will be rounded to the nearest dollar, collecting the difference for the bail fund. Once you reach at least $2, the money donated to a new fund.

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