The Problem:A cash bail system that tends to leave poor people in jail
The Fix:An app that allows you to donate bail money — automatically, a few cents at a time
The Backstory:Roughly 60 percent of people in jail awaiting trial are there because they’re too poor to afford bail, which in many cases is just a few hundred dollars. Kortney Ziegler, who runs the Chicago tech incubator ZamLabs with Appolition cofounder Tiffany Mikell, had that on his mind when in July 2017 he fired off a sudden brainstorm as a 14-word tweet: “an app that converts your daily change into bail money to free black people.” Less than an hour later, Ziegler also came up with a name for his idea: Appolition (a portmanteau of “app” and “abolition”).
The nonprofit he subsequently started combines crowdfunding with the functionality of spare-change investment apps like Acorns and Digit. Users link a credit or debit card to Appolition, which rounds transactions up to the next dollar (a $6.25 purchase becomes $7) and routes the difference to bail-raising organizations. “What’s cool is that Appolition allows anyone at any income level to be a part of an important solution,” Mikell says.
In less than a year, the app has attracted 8,000 users and raised about $140,000 — securing the release of 45 people nationwide, Mikell says. Ziegler and Mikell also partner with community groups to teach people how bail works and to spur activism that they hope will lead to a fairer system. What happens to the app once that’s been achieved? “We want to see the resources and donations we collect go toward supporting people after they’ve been incarcerated,” says Mikell.
Where you come in:Sign up at appolition.us. Your money will go to whichever of the roughly 20 bail-raising groups you select.