The Orange County Bail/Bond Justice Project is donating 20 percent of its fund to other types of court assistance after a sharp decrease in detentions this past year.
These reallocated funds, which usually go toward paying bail for qualified Orange County residents, will help pay court costs and fees, transportation costs and jail-related fees, such as telephone calls.
There is already an existing debt relief program that covers residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The funds from the Bail/Bond Justice Project will help that program cover people in Orange County who don't live in those towns.
“Our whole focus is on how do we keep people out of detention, and how do we keep people from having a repetitive, revolving door with the justice system,” Anna Richards, third vice president for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, a partner of the project, said. “And a large part of that is making sure they make their court dates and they are able to cover court costs and fees.”
The expanded assistance program will kick off in early May, and there is an application for assistance.
The Orange County Bail/Bond Justice Project launched in 2019 as a faith-based initiative funded by a partnership of churches and private donations. The project helps post bail and provides assistance to people who need it.
“Our goal is really to achieve a more just pretrial and bail system in Orange County,” Chairperson Kimberly Brewer said.
The fund has amassed about $57,000, Brewer said. It became operational last March — right when the pandemic struck.
To qualify for the fund, Orange County residents must be charged in Orange County courts; they can’t have a bond hold from another court, and the bail can’t be greater than $5,000. Other factors — like domestic violence cases and restraining orders — are considered, Brewer said.