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How Cash Bail Keeps Black Mothers Behind Bars

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In December, JaCari Letchaw’s dog wandered to a neighbor’s house, where it gave birth to puppies. Letchaw says when she tried to retrieve her dog and the puppies, a dispute broke out over who was the rightful owner of the puppies. She walked away, but later that night the Black single mother of five was arrested and eventually sent to Jefferson County’s jail in Birmingham, Alabama.

Her bail was set at $60,000 for a first-degree robbery charge. It was far more than she could afford; her most recent job had paid only $14 an hour. The monetary difference meant Letchaw would have to wait in jail until her trial started — which could be months away.

“I absolutely had no idea how I was going to pay my bail. There was no way possible. Sitting in there, I even lost my job,” Letchaw told NBC News.

She also almost lost her house while awaiting trial in jail for two weeks. She was only able to return home after a local social justice organization, Faith and Works, posted her bail on Christmas Day through its fund, In Defense of Black Lives. The group has a relationship with Birmingham’s sheriff’s department, which referred her case.

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Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.


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