National nonprofit is posting bail for Mobile prisoners – and DA cries foul

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – A California-based nonprofit has quietly begun posting bail to help inmates break out of the Mobile County Metro Jail, a move that has drawn the ire of prosecutors.

Based in Los Angeles, The Bail Project is a $33 million fund that works across the country to help bail out people who can’t afford bond in criminal cases.

The organization is not officially on mobile. The group has bailed on a handful of what it calls “test cases” and is evaluating whether to permanently enter the region.

The first of those test cases was Shane Donovan Singleton, a 35-year-old Mobile County man charged with burglary. The Bail Project posted his bail of $5,000, with the condition that he complete the Wings of Life treatment program.

A judge scheduled a hearing in March to review his progress, but he failed to appear and remained at large until police arrested him last month on charges of threatening to kill someone.

Unlike affiliated companies, Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said The Bail Project doesn’t have bounty hunters to track people down when they’re on the run.

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“The Mobile Police Department did the work of the Bail Project and put him back in jail, and he was immediately reinstated,” she told FOX10 News. “And the security project still has no money to pay.”

Adrienne Johnson, regional director of The Bail Project, said her organization provides an important service to people who are eligible for release but cannot afford bail. The group also provides transportation and court date reminders, she said.

“We’re doing a bail bond project and we’re trying to level the playing field by helping people who are just in custody because they can’t afford to pay bail,” she said.

But Rich said it took Singleton’s arrest on the new charge to put him behind bars. She argued that The Bail Project should have demanded the forfeiture of the money immediately.

“It’s a public safety issue,” she said. “But if The Bail Project had granted them extraordinary circumstances, this new offense would not have happened.”

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A judge will decide Thursday whether the bond the organization posted in Singleton’s case should be forfeited.

This is not the only defendant accused of failing to comply with court orders with help from The Bail Project. Court records show the organization agreed on Aug. 8 to cover $1,453 in criminal restitution for Grand Bay resident Markita Ross if she doesn’t continue to attend court hearings and make payments. She missed a hearing the following month. When she failed to appear Wednesday, Mobile County Circuit Judge George Hardesty ordered the state to forfeit the money.

The Rescue Project does not differentiate between the types of crimes inmates are charged with when deciding whether to offer support. Johnson Helps offers help for violent and non-violent cases. She noted that judges have the ability to deny bail to individuals deemed too high a risk to flee or pose a threat to the community, or to impose additional restrictions, such as electronic monitoring.

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“We’re rescuing people who have already been released on bail by a judge,” she said.

The program is supported by Mobile County Presiding District Judge Michael Youngpeter. He told FOX10 News the program in Mobile County is only for non-violent low-bail offenders. He said that many of these people have been in prison for so long that they have already served their entire sentence by the time the case is resolved.

“And that’s just because they’re poor,” he said. “And it just doesn’t seem fair. It’s not fair. And this project eliminates that. And so, you know, the limited purpose is why we’ve got them here.

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