Many of the two million prisoners in the
U.S. are nonviolent o;enders awaiting trial.
Oakland, California–based Promise has an
audacious solution: Work with cities and
counties to release them, and provide an app
and support system to keep them current with
court appointments and hearings. Promise
is operating in Alameda County; co-founder
and CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins expects
launches in several more counties this year.
—AS TOLD TO CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN ;
I came out of a community that didn’t have
many resources. There were violent households. Families doomed by drugs. My life
was fortunate. I did labor organizing for
South Bay Labor Council. I advised Prince
on digital-rights management. I ran revenue at Honor, a home health care startup.
Then a friend called and said there were
bounty hunters at her door. Someone she
loved had missed a hearing, and there was
a warrant out for his arrest. He was so
scared. He just wanted to keep working,
to support his family. He had no money
for a lawyer or bail.
We called the public defender and had it
fixed in five minutes. But many people
don’t have the resources to work the
system. The reality is that it’s broken.
People of color are being arrested for
sleeping. For walking. For shopping.
Seventy percent of people held in county
jails have not been convicted of a crime.
They can’t a;ord bail and are just waiting
for a trial. It leads to prison overcrowding.
PHAEDRA ELLIS-LAMKINS/PROMISE HOW I DECIDED TO TAKE ON THE U.S. BAIL SYSTEM A New Way Forward “The current system of bail punishes those who
can least afford it,” says
“It creates chaos from
which no one benefits.”
Her startup aspires to