To Celebrate Father’s Day I’m Supporting The National Bail Out

By Dr. Sharon Groves 

My dad was there for me when I didn’t know what to write about for my English class in high school, when I needed to have the most unique costume for halloween and when I came out as lesbian,.  I have always been able to turn to my dad when I needed support and a hand up.  That’s why, when I think about dads stuck in jail on Father’s Day who have not been convicted of any crime except poverty, my heart breaks for them and also for their kids.  As the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III and Charles Straight pointed out in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune this week:

“Last year, Cook County held approximately 8,000 people in its jail every day and processed an overwhelming 60,000 people total. Only 5 percent had been convicted of a crime; the rest languished in jail even though they had not yet been tried or convicted. Most were stuck just because they were too poor to pay their bail…Neighbors and loved ones are trapped in jail because they cannot afford to pay bail, and their lives begin to crumble before they have even gone to trial. They often lose their jobs, their homes and their kids.”

This week we saw yet another murderer of a father figure, Philando Castile, acquitted for his crime: as though the life and fatherhood of Philando was not precious, as though his life meant nothing. It struck home how urgent the need is to rebuild our criminal (in)justice system at every level.  Supporting the National Bail Out is a great starting point.

These bail out projects started as the dream of one Queer, Black, Feminist Mom, Mary Hooks, who came from poverty and they have captured the imagination of thousands. Now Southerners On New Ground (SONG) and Color of Change are teaming up with dozens of organizations to raise funds to bail out dads, and raise attention to the issue of money bail.   Today, I am donating in honor of my dad who was there for me and in honor of all the dads who are kept from their kids today because of a justice system that penalizes poor people who can’t afford bail.  

People of faith urgently need to lend our voices and resources to this matter so we make sure we are standing on the side of the poor, of the criminalized and of those targeted by hatred and callousness.  Please join me and celebrate this Father’s Day with an act of compassion and justice.  Together we can right this wrong.  

Dr. Sharon Groves is Vice President for Partner Engagement at Auburn Seminary. 

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