Adult consensual sex workers are targeted for arrest in the United States under the guise of fighting human trafficking. No matter how many time theses efforts are proven to be harmful or ineffective, the myths and misconceptions persist. We are proud to introduce our National Sex Worker Bail Out Fund to bond sex workers out of jail. We are following the principles of the National Bail Fund Network and are proud to align our shared vision of ending money bail and pre-trial detention. SWOP Behind Bars will begin our work with local bond funds throughout the United States to bond adult sex workers out of jail who are arrested on prostitution related charges surrounding events where anti trafficking organizations and law enforcement make false claims of increasing sex trafficking. We will connect to local attorneys and the public defenders office to provide information and education around the subject of sex work intersecting with sex trafficking and use their networks, as well as community based networks, to provide services and support for the people we free from cages. The SWOP Behind Bars bail fund will make every effort to bond sex workers out of jail by directly paying the full amount of the bond directly to the court so that their fines and court fees will be paid upon resolution of the case. In cases where we are not able to pay bond directly, we will use a licensed bonding agent to free our people. Sex workers who are trans, gender non-conforming and people of color will be prioritized. In cases where sex workers are charged with additional charges unrelated to sex work, we will consult with local advocates and activists within the National Bail Network to determine how we move forward.
Like National Bail Fund Network, we believe that the work of community bail and bond funds should:
1. Be committed to a goal of ending money bail and pretrial detention, with a clear focus
on decarceration and confronting current racial and class disparities. Different jurisdictions are in different phases of ending money bail, so what campaigns look like place to place may be different (examples include: jail closures, policy changes, and enforcement of system changes).
2. We believe that bail and bond funds should be connected to jail/prison abolition work broadly as well as to specific local campaigns to end money bail (in the criminal context) and pretrial detention (in both criminal and immigration contexts). We are working to establish additional core principles specific to the larger work to end immigration detention.
3. Be accountable to impacted communities.
To be positioned as a community-based bail or bond fund, we believe that there must be clarity and transparency about the role community plays, what accountability looks like, and how directly impacted communities and formerly and currently incarcerated individuals’ voices are represented.
4. Be in collaboration with larger movement work against mass criminalization and incarceration. Although the direct focus of a bail or bond fund may be ending money bail and pretrial detention, we believe that bail and bond funds should be clear about how their work relates to the movement to end mass criminalization and incarceration in general.
5. Have criteria that reflect the fund’s goals and do not perpetuate dichotomies around who is deserving versus undeserving, whether based on type of charge or other factors that reinforce biases within the system and pit those targeted by the system against one another. We believe that bail and bond funds should be clear about the basis of their payment criteria as well as who established the criteria. This requires transparency around how the criteria will avoid perpetuating good/bad or deserving/undeserving dichotomies and how it is tied to clear and accountable goals. We also believe it is important that funds are clear about whether funders or other system actors are playing a role in setting a bail or bond fund’s criteria.
6. Have an analysis about how to address the needs of individuals for support services beyond payment of bail or bond. Paying bail or bond cannot be a completely discrete action. We believe that bail and bond funds must develop clarity around how they will confront additional issues beyond bail payment that will influence pretrial freedom, e.g. the payment of fines, fees, restitution and connections to support services and community-based resources. We believe that bail and bond funds should position their work within the larger conversation about building new community-based solutions outside of the criminal legal and immigration detention systems.
7. Have clarity about their position within the system they are trying to dismantle.
Bail and bond funds often end up having to coordinate with the same system they are trying to dismantle as they pay bail or bond to free individuals. We believe that funds should develop an analysis on how they will navigate this and, specifically, where their limits are (e.g. will bail and bond funds accept different treatment than individuals in the system to facilitate their operations). In jurisdictions where the system itself wants to provide funding or operate its own bail or bond fund, we think it is critical to have an analysis of where the levers of power and change exist.