Kansas City Rally Marks Mother’s Day By Supporting Moms Who Need Help Making Bail
Misha Webb, 41, said she is grateful this Mother's Day.
Last month, Webb got a call that her 60-year-old mother was in jail, after police said her car had been swerving and that she failed a breathalyzer test. With $500 of her rent savings, Webb bailed her mom out. She said she was relieved she had the cash on hand.
"I don't know what I would do if I had to be without my mother on Mother's Day," she said at a rally on Saturday at the Freedom Fountain on Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard and Cleveland Avenue. "She doesn't go to court until next week, so she could have still been in jail."
Saturday's event, which brought out about 20 supporters, was part of an effort by the National Bail Out collective to call attention to the issue of incarcerated black women. The organization is sponsoring the #freeblackmamas campaign and says it is committed to ending pretrial detention and mass incarceration, which disproportionately hurts black communities.
Kansas City was one of 35 cities across the country where advocates spent the last week raising awareness and funds to make bail for black mothers so they could be with their families on Mother's Day.
Justice Gatson, a Kansas City doula and activist with Reale Justice Network, said the local effort had been successful in getting three women released from Jackson County jail.
Gatson cited media reports of two separate investigations into the Jackson County jail indicating that the average number of inmates in pretrial detention is as high as 83%. One of those reports, commissioned by County Executive Frank White, goes into extensive detail about the debt trap posed by the system of cash bail.
Gatson said she's seen that first hand and works with her clients to help them avoid it. She calls it the "bail out-keep out" plan.
"We ask, 'What was the root cause that got you in jail?' Then we help get them on firmer ground. We will pay for a community health worker, fines for dog tickets, traffic tickets and yard workers," Gatson said.
Reale Justice and other groups say the majority of inmates in pretrial deteintion are there for minor offences such as traffic tickets or housing code violations.
"If they don't have the money (to hire someone) to take care of their yard, they aren't going to have money for bail," Gatson said.
Candice Shepard, 31, has been in trouble over traffic tickets since she was 23.
It started when she didn't have the money to register her car. The tickets, then warrents, piled up. With $800 dollars in warrents, she went to jail. Her parents bailed her out, but since then it's been a vicious cycle of arrests, warrents, jail, court dates and bail.
"You miss a court date, you get a warrant," she said. "You get pulled over and you're back in jail with a bail bond. Then you get more court costs, more fines, which may lead to more warrents and more jail."
Her longest wait to make bail was a week and a half.
This Mother’s Day, Shepard said she would be home with her kids. But her driver's license will remain suspended for another year. She's worried about how she's going to navigate getting to work and caring for her family without bumping up against the law.
On Saturday, Gatson was hoping to get two women out of jail in Clay County, but they both faced financial barriers she was unable to address before Mother's Day.
Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @laurazig or by email at email@example.com.