Setting the Captives Free: Adventist Church in Texas Helps in Effort to Post Bail for 9 in Jail
- Faith in Texas, a non-profit multi-faith organization, paid bail of nine people and released them from jail on Christmas Eve.
27 December 2021 |
- “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed.” — Luke 4:18, NKJV
Faith in Texas, a non-profit multi-faith organization, used $100,000 (USD) from its Luke 4:18 Bail Fund to pay the bail of nine people and release them from jail in Dallas, Texas, US on Dec. 24, 2021.
The bailout started because Faith in Texas noticed that jail time results in longer-term issues among those who were arrested, according to a Dallas Morning News article.
“You are not only arresting that person, but you’re also arresting the family as well. So we started noticing a pattern where someone would sit in jail for two to three months, then they would lose their job and then you know, their children get turned over to the state,” said Jaime Kowlessar, executive director of Faith in Texas, who is also the senior pastor of Dallas City Temple Seventh-day Adventist church.
A press release from Faith in Texas said the cash bail system “deepens existing inequities by preventing people who have not yet had their day in court from returning to their families, jobs, and community simply because they do not have the means to post bail, while allowing the wealthy to walk free,” according to a news station WFAA article.
This September, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 6, or the “Damon Allen Act,” into law. The law prohibits the release on personal bond of defendants charged with an offense involving violence or who are charged while released on bail, even if the judge determines they pose no threat to public safety. Now, a person accused of violence may only get out of jail by posting a cash bail.
Under the new law, a wealthy criminal could leave jail while a person who cannot afford bail sits behind bars for committing the exact same crime.
Each month the Luke 4:18 Bail Fund has a budget of $30,000 for bailouts in Dallas County. Kowlessar said the people whom they bailed out have yet to be convicted, so while they are waiting for their court date, Faith In Texas wants to make sure they are able to have the freedom to provide for their families.
“They’ll still go to their court date, but at least they’ll get back to their lives right. They’ll get back to working, get back to taking care of their children, and get back to paying their rent, so they don’t have to lose all those things that they’ve worked so hard for,” he said.
In addition to the bail payment on Dec. 24, 2021, Faith in Texas also gave the people they freed $100 each upon their release.
Advocates for bail reform in the United States say the bail system is an unfair tool used against low-income people, especially minorities.
“Dr. Jaime [Kowlessar] pointed it out where there was an individual of Caucasian descent who had the exact same charge as an individual of African descent, but the person of African descent’s bail was $25,000 and his was $5,000,” said Mark Walters, lead organizer of the Luke 4:18 Bail Fund. “If it’s going to be a just system, make sure it is the same across the board,”
Several members from Dallas City Temple showed their support and spoke to those being released, making sure they had a ride and a place to go.
Vickie Johnson, a volunteer and 40-year member of Dallas City Temple, said although she’s never had a close family member be incarcerated, some of her friends have.
“We believe in a penal system, but not spending money to lock people up. Use that money to rehabilitate people, instead of putting them in jail,” Johnson said.
(Photo: Congregants are seen during a worship service at Dallas City Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church. The senior pastor of the church, Jaime Kowlessar, is the executive director for Faith in Texas, a non-profit multi-faith organization that raises money to bail people out of jail. Many members of this church helped with an effort to release nine people from jail on Dec. 24, 2021. Photo via screenshot of Dallas City Temple website.)