The Boston Globe reported that the Massachusetts Bail Fund wants to free everyone, but has waded into “controversial territory” since it has freed defendants facing serious and violent charges and long criminal records.

Private charities like the Massachusetts Bail Fund have received millions of money after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN.

The organization has not released how much it has raised, “but last week it posted $85,000 bail to free a single prisoner.”

From The Boston Globe:

Donors who rushed to support bail funds after the Floyd death likely thought they were helping to bail out jailed protesters, who typically face bail of up to a few hundred dollars. The fund bailed out scores of protesters arrested during the Boston demonstrations, but it has set free many facing more serious charges as well. [Joel] Rodriguez, for example, had been in jail for nine months before his release, serving time for assaulting and harassing several victims, according to court records. Now he’s out on bail for additional domestic violence charges, which he described to the Globe as “problems of love.”

The day after the fund bailed out Rodriguez, it put up $85,000 to free Karmau Cotton-Landers, 25, who is accused of shooting someone in the daytime on Boston Common in early April. When he was arrested, officers found a loaded firearm and ammunition in his Puma camouflage backpack, Boston police said.

On the day after Cotton-Landers was freed, the fund bailed out someone who had been arrested on looting charges hours after the May 31 demonstration in Boston. Darren McFadden also has an extensive criminal history including 60 cases in Suffolk County and a three-year prison sentence for robbing someone at knifepoint. The Bail Fund paid McFadden’s $2,500 bail on larceny and breaking and entering charges.

Executive Director Atara Rich-Shea dismissed “the Globe’s attempt to interview the people the fund had bailed.”

Those who donated in hopes of helping people arrested protesting or rioting after Floyd’s death should have looked at the fine print.

The Massachusetts Bail Fund will post bail for anyone “regardless of court history, charge, or circumstances.” The Globe continued:

For the fund and its supporters, a principle is at stake. If a prosecutor believes a defendant is too dangerous to release, they argue, the prosecutor should ask a judge to declare him or her dangerous and held indefinitely. Setting a high bail, they argue, is both unfair to the poor and ineffective at preventing crime.

“Why would paying a certain amount of bail make them any less dangerous?” asked David Rangaviz, a lawyer for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, an organization that represents poor defendants.

Law enforcement and victims rights advocates have come out against groups like the Massachusetts Bail Fund:

But victims rights advocates and some in law enforcement say the fund is enabling the release of potentially dangerous people with few or no court-ordered conditions to protect the public.

“It is a total injustice,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, referring to the release of defendants charged with crimes of violence. “I’ll get criticized, but not by the folks in the neighborhoods. They are the victims of crime and they feel left out.”

Freeing them, he said, sends the message to those inclined to commit crimes that there are no consequences.

“We have seen an uptick in violence,” Gross said. “I have no doubt that some of the violence is attributable to” people out on bail.

“I would never deny anyone the opportunity to be bailed. But … what about the victims? We keep forgetting about the victims. They have constitutional rights too — to walk down the street, to be secure in their homes.”

The Massachusetts Bail Fund (MFF) is not the only one facing controversy. In June, reports showed the Minnesota Freedom Fund only paid $200,000 in bail even though it received more than $30 million from people.

MFF upset people, even more, when it decided to use the money for “legal support for those arrested or incarcerated protesting the murder of George Floyd, and our core values and mission.”

[Featured image via Boston Globe video]


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