One of the biggest concerns about COVID and the spread of the pandemic involves situations where people have to be contained with each other. The CDC and many other health organizations have repeatedly pointed out that COVID-19 spreads rapidly among people in enclosed environments. However, in Tampa, FL one program is working hard to help inmates who are being held for their court dates have freedom and avoid the COVID risk by providing them funds for bail bonds. As seen on the video, “Community Bail Fund expanding into Hillsborough County,” Matt Morgan and his law firm Morgan & Morgan, have teamed up with various government legal agencies to help create and support a Community Bail Fund for this purpose (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoh94KzZzk4).
The Community Bail Fund idea works along the idea that people who have only committed non-violent, low level offenses should not have to sit in jail waiting for their trial day just because they can’t afford the cost of bail. The program raises money to help such inmates out, paying for their bail so they can be at home and back in the community until their trial date instead of sitting in jail doing the same.
The issue is particularly sensitive because many of the trial dates in the local courts have been pushed back or delayed due to COVID-19, prolonging the duration that people have to sit in jail. In some cases, as noted in the video, some of the inmates are serving time longer than they would if actually convicted of their alleged crime, simply because they can’t pay bail.
The video highlights the local Tampa story in July 2020, but the Morgan-led program is one of a number of such activities going on around the country in addition to other ideas with regards to bail reform and justice reform. For example, the recent ballot in California had an initiative to outright eliminate bail for low-level crimes altogether. For decades, the issue of finances and fairness prior to being convicted of anything has been well known, but money has always seemed to be the resource that consistently brings people back to the courts to appear at their hearing dates on time.
So, the bail process and needing a bail bond agent has remained despite it’s lack of equity for the poor being well known. As a result, programs like that in Tampa have been springing up, at least allowing some level of help to get to those who need it the most, a silver lining that appeared as a result of a pandemic.