GREENSBORO — Forget the flowers. Forget the cards. Forget the dinner out — unless you’re talking about a meal at home with family.
The gift some folks are getting this Mother's Day is getting out of jail.
This is the third year the nonprofit Southerners on New Ground is bailing mothers and other caretakers out of jail just in time for Mother’s Day.
And, for the first time, the Greensboro chapter is participating. It had freed four women from the Guilford County jail by Saturday, according to Cherizar Crippen, spokesperson for the local SONG chapter. All of the recipients are awaiting trial and are accused of low-level crimes.
“Those folks are essentially marginalized in this country,” Crippen said. "They lose their jobs, they lose their families, they lose their homes (because they're in jail and unable to afford bail)."
And people with lower incomes are most at risk.
“If they have the money to pay that (bail) then they can go free and if they don’t then they lose everything,” Crippen said.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 14.5% of Guilford County's population lived in poverty in 2018. Crippen said the average bail amount in the United States takes about eight months of an average person’s income.
Dubbed "Black Mama's Bail Out," the name is a bit of a misnomer. The group is focused on caregivers, regardless of gender.
"We’re talking about anyone who takes care of people, that includes older people, children, people who are trans," Crippen said. "People who are transgender — because of the way our society is set up — they end up taking care of each other," she explained. The group has had trouble determining transgender people who may need the group's help because Guilford County does not recognize their gender, Crippen said.
The group meets with potential recipients beforehand to see if they want their help and to find out what their needs will be when they get out.
“We have to get their permission," Crippen said. "A lot of times, (the jail) is the only place that they can get medical care. Also, people get very nervous about people coming to bail them out that they don’t know.”
The initiative comes amid a growing movement among criminal justice groups to overhaul bail systems that critics say favor the wealthy and punish the poor, while clogging local jails with people yet to be convicted of a crime.
“Right now we’re doing this action to bring awareness to this situation,” Crippen said.
Aside from individuals, church and business donations, Crippen said the Greensboro chapter received $5,000 from the parent SONG organization and $25,000 from the National Bailout Collective, a group of activists aiming to end systems of pretrial detention and mass incarceration. They've also collected donations from passersby outside of the jail in downtown Greensboro.
SONG has a team of people in place to help the people once they are out of jail.
“We treat them as people who have needs," Crippen said. "We have a caseworker assigned to them for three months.”
Brandi Collins-Calhoun, director of reproductive and maternal health for the YWCA in Greensboro, said that organization also is working with SONG.
"If there are any pregnant folks, we're making sure they're matched with doulas and matched with child care. That’s something that we’ve been supporting SONG with," Calhoun said. "If they're in jail, they don’t have any way of ensuring how their children are cared for."