During the 78 days Iyo Bishop sat in jail unable to post bail, the 43-year-old lost her job, car and apartment, she said. No loved ones could help pay $5,000 for her release on assault charges, so she waited. And waited.
More than two months after being arrested, something unexpected happen. A stranger visited Bishop in jail and, within two weeks, secured her pretrial release.
All charges were eventually dismissed.
That stranger was a volunteer from the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, which posted bail earlier this week for more than one dozen women just in time for Mother’s Day.
On Thursday, Bishop joined those 15 women outside City Hall to call for the end of cash bail.
“I was in a dark, dark place,” Bishop said of her time in jail. “I had to start all over when I got out, all because could not afford the ... price tag on my freedom.”
The other women released this week each sat in jail between five and 451 days, according to Candace McKinley from the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund. None of them could afford to post their bail.
The bail fund has raised $75,000 to help other low-income, pretrial defendants in the city. It’s part of a national effort to end cash bail, and fits right into District Attorney Larry Krasner’s ongoing policy reform. In February, he instructed prosecutors to recommend that no cash bail requirements be set for low-level offenders.
"There is absolutely no reason why someone who will show up for court, is not a flight risk, and is no threat to their neighbors and community, needs to sit in jail for days because they can't post a small amount of bail," Krasner said at the time.
The new policies did not impact Bishop, however. She was already in jail on charges stemming from a domestic abuse altercation with her ex-boyfriend. She was initially charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person, according to court records.
Bishop denied those charges and her case was eventually dismissed, but she still had to wait behind bars because she could not afford to pay for her release.
“The consequences of even a few days locked in a cage pretrial can cause irreparable damage,” she said.
Since her release, Bishop spends her free time looking for work and volunteering with the community bail fund. She hopes her efforts will prevent others from going through the same legal nightmare she experienced.