Jay Z recently executive produced Time: The Kalief Browder Story, a documentary series about a Bronx high school student who killed himself after he was accused of stealing a backpack and imprisoned on Rikers Island for three years. Browder’s bail was set at $3000, which his family was unable to afford, and now, Jay has penned an op-ed for TIME on the “injustice of the profitable bail bond industry” and how it affects the black community.
“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,” Jay Z writes. “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…On any given day over 400,000 people, convicted of no crime, are held in jail because they cannot afford to buy their freedom.”
“When black and brown people are over-policed and arrested and accused of crimes at higher rates than others, and then forced to pay for their freedom before they ever see trial, big bail companies prosper,” he continues. “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 dollars 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.”
The rapper concludes by pledging financial support to organizations like like Southerners On New Ground and Color Of Change. “We have to get rid of these inhumane practices altogether,” he says. “We can’t fix our broken criminal justice system until we take on the exploitative bail industry.” You can read the full piece here.