LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- State representatives are pushing for a bill to make charitable bail illegal in Kentucky, but some organizations are pushing against it.
House Bill 313 was introduced by Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, and Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, on Tuesday. It would amend KRS 431.510 to make operating a charitable bail organization unlawful.
In a statement to WDRB News, Nemes wrote:
“The intent of the bill is to ensure that people charged with violent offenses are not bailed out by a company that does not do a proper background check and has no relation to the defendant. When a human posts bail, they are effectively vouching for that person because they are posting their own money as bail, and they are subject to losing their own money if the defendant does not show up to court or reoffends. That is not true for a company. So, this bill aims to ensure that people charged with violent crimes are not released by a company that posts their bail.”
In response to the bill, Gov. Andy Beshear said changes impacting these types of bail need careful consideration.
"There are some people that end up days and weeks in jail because they simply can't afford even a lower-level bond that could lose their job or other opportunities,” Beshear said. “It's come up in the context of what are often times civil protest, but even civil protest sometimes people choose to get arrested to make a point. Keeping folks in jail that can't afford bond on things like that versus a violent crime are just night and day different."
If passed, the bill would outlaw services provided by groups like the Louisville Community Bail Fund.
"I don't see this being passed," said Chanelle Helm, co-founder of the Louisville Community Bail Fund and an organizer of Black Lives Matter Louisville. “It's unconstitutional to prevent folks from raising funds to help get people out of jail."
Helm said the unprecedented protests that swept through Louisville and the U.S. in 2020 surrounding the death of Breonna Taylor bolstered bail funds.
"We were gifted over 300,000 peoples’ induvial donations,” Helm said. “We're not just waiting for someone to go back to trial. Lots of folks play with people in jail and that's not what we are here for, we are not a bail bonds man nor are we a charitable bail fund either."
The Bail Project, another Louisville-based group, was able to provide bail assistance for 3,104 people.
"We must make sure that this bill does not go further because it is too dangerous," said Shameka Parrish-Wright, community advocacy and partnership manager for The Bail Project. "Even in our local jail, in the matter of six weeks, there's been five jail death's and they said they usually have three ... these problems that we're seeing now will be exacerbated if you close and remove our ability to be able to step in and help."
According to the organization, those released returned to their families, the community and their jobs while fighting their cases from a position of freedom.
Nemes said the bill will be seen by the Committee on Committees once it is reviewed.
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