For many people arrested, especially low-income citizens, bail funds are their best hope for freedom while they await trial. Now, some of those funds are accepting cryptocurrency donations.
Facilitated by crypto payment processor , the , the and the , for example, accept cryptocurrency including bitcoin (), ether () and even basic attention token (BAT). They’ve taken in thousands of dollars in crypto donations since the summer, according to The Giving Block, which could be a sign of larger adoption in the space of bail funds.
This summer saw a rise in civil action against police violence in the U.S., with thousands of protestors taking to the streets over the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Numerous protestors were arrested. Around this time, Alex Wilson, co-founder of The Giving Block, started hearing from bail funds that were interested in using The Giving Block to process cryptocurrency payments.
According to the director of the Community Justice Exchange, Pilar Weiss, not many of the accept crypto. She said that is based on the grassroots nature of many crowdfunding actions for bail funds. While a handful of their member funds accept crypto, including the Richmond Bail Fund, if they do it’s usually because they have some back-end administrative capacity to accept.
Weiss said she could see that change, however, as fundraising platforms like PayPal, for example, .
“The traditional kind of nonprofit donor, which some nonprofits rely on, are on the older side, in their fifties and sixties, and often even retired,” said Wilson. “Sometimes [nonprofits] have a hard time connecting with younger donors. So they see this as one of those ways of doing that. It also helps them look a little bit more innovative when they’re starting to play with stuff like crypto and not just taking checks in the mail.”
When someone is arrested, a judge sets bail and the detainee must either pay that amount or stay in jail until the trial. But not everyone has access to ready cash and the system disproportionately impacts low-income citizens in both the short and long term.
According to research from the Bail Project, a single night in prison can have cascading effects such as the loss of a job, a home and even custody of children.
Waiting in jail prior to trial also impacts a detainee’s likelihood of going to prison, according to a regularly updated from the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute.
The report found that “those who are held pretrial are four times more likely to be sentenced to prison than defendants released prior to trial. Pretrial detainees are also likely to make hurried decisions to plead guilty to a lower charge to spend less time behind bars rather than changing a higher charge and longer sentence at trial.”