Andréa “Muffin” Hudson, 47
Director, North Carolina Community Bail Fund of Durham
You’ve had a personal experience with the cash bail system, right?
Yeah. I couldn’t afford my bail so I sat in jail for two months, and then my charges got dismissed. And in those two months, I lost my housing and I lost my job. And I couldn’t find a job because of the charges. And even though they were dismissed, they still showed up on my background.
What are the types of low-level offenses that people are typically incarcerated for?
Normally it’s for breaking and entering. A lot—all—of the folks that I have seen, and bailed out for this charge, are homeless folks who have gone into a business and fell asleep under a table or under a chair. They didn’t steal anything, they were just in there sleeping. A lot of trespassing charges and some domestic charges, too, like simple assault. But because we’ve raised so much money, we’ve raised the amount from $2,000 to $5,000. So now we’re going to be able to get more people out, since the cap is higher.
How many people have you worked with?
Since 2017, I’m going to say it’s 100 people. And out of the 100 people, 22 have been since March. We’ve bailed out more people since March than we have the whole year of 2019 because we didn’t have the funds in 2019. Once COVID hit, people felt an urgency to go ahead and donate.
The narrative should be that people may be accused of a crime, but their crimes don’t warrant a death sentence. They have said that people have gotten better from COVID, right? But people have also died from COVID. And the folks that are more likely to die from it are people incarcerated and in jails because they’re not going to get the proper medical attention that they need.
Speaking from experience from when I was in the Durham County jail, even though [Clarence] Birkhead wasn’t the sheriff at the time—my head got to hurting so bad and I was afraid that I was going to have a stroke, because my mother had a stroke and died from a stroke. I kept ringing the bell, but the detention officer cut the phone off so that they wouldn’t hear it. They never came over.
How has COVID-19 increased the urgency of getting people out of prison?
It is very important to get people out of pretrial detention and out of prisons because they don’t have the means to practice social distancing. If we’re on the outside and we can’t find the cleaning supplies to keep our places sanitary, how are they going to get the supplies? They’re not. We can’t get them.
You’ve been doing rolling protests past the jail during the pandemic. How do those protests work?
People stay in the car; that way people won’t be afraid to come out worrying about whether or not they’re going to be in contact with too many people, because they stay in a car. The very first time, we had like 30 cars, and then the next week, we had 11 cars, then 5 cars, so it fluctuates. I had put my number out because there’s a number that people can call about bail, and it’s free for them. And people called. And they said that the rolling protests were the highlights of their week. That they can’t wait till they hear the horns because they know that those horns are out there for them and that they haven’t been forgotten.
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