Jay Z Is Celebrating Father’s Day By Bailing Out Dads Who Can’t Afford Their Freedom

If you’re from neighborhoods like the Brooklyn one I grew up in, if you’re unable to afford a private attorney, then you can be disappeared into our jail system simply because you can’t afford bail. Millions of people are separated from their families for months at a time — not because they are convicted of committing a crime, but because they are accused of committing a crime. 

The above excerpt is the bedrock of an op-ed piece written by Jay Z for Time magazine, published today (June 16). Titled “For Father’s Day, I’m Taking On the Exploitative Bail Industry,” his personal essay takes on one of the many troubling sectors of America’s criminal-justice system. In addition to legal troubles he faced in his past, Jigga draws from what he’s learned by observing how the system treats others including Kalief Browder, a New York man who spent years in solitary confinement before committing suicide. Last year, Jay produced a six-part documentary series on Browder’s ordeal and its applications to the justice system as a whole, an experience which led him to discover just how punitive the bail-bond industry can be.

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“[W]hen I helped produce this year’s docuseries, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, I became obsessed with the injustice of the profitable bail bond industry,” Jay Z writes in the new op-ed. Citing Browder’s case as well as Sandra Bland’s, he reminds us their experiences are far from anecdotal. “On any given day over 400,000 people, convicted of no crime, are held in jail because they cannot afford to buy their freedom.” He also points out the racial disparities, arguing that the bail industry profits “when Black and Brown people are over-policed and arrested and accused of crimes at higher rates than others,” adding “This pre-incarceration conundrum is devastating to families. One in 9 black children has an incarcerated parent. Families are forced to take on more debt, often in predatory lending schemes created by bail bond insurers. Or their loved ones linger in jails, sometimes for months—a consequence of nationwide backlogs. Every year $9 billion are wasted incarcerating people who’ve not been convicted of a crime, and insurance companies, who have taken over our bail system, go to the bank. ”

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But the true power in his statement is not in this statistical context he provides. ” This Father’s Day, I’m supporting [ nonprofits Southerners on New Ground and Color of Change] organizations to bail out fathers who can’t afford the due process our democracy promises,” says the “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” rapper. “As a father with a growing family, it’s the least I can do, but philanthropy is not a long fix, we have to get rid of these inhumane practices altogether. We can’t fix our broken criminal justice system until we take on the exploitative bail industry.”

To learn more about the bail industry, Jay Z urges us all to visit “Selling off our Freedom: How Insurance Corporations Have Taken Over Our Bail System,” a report published by Color of Change earlier this year.