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

Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 9:32 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2022 at 4:27 PM CST
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UPDATE: A judge has denied the District Attorney’s request that the bond for Shane Singleton be forfeited over to the state after Singleton appeared in court this week.


MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A California-based nonprofit organization quietly has begun putting up bail money to help prisoners get out of Mobile County Metro Jail, a move that has drawn the ire of prosecutors.

Based in Los Angeles, The Bail Project has $33 million and operates all over the country, helping to bail out people who cannot afford bonds in criminal cases.

The organization is not officially in Mobile. The group has put up bail money in 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 Danovan Singleton, a 35-year-old Mobile County resident charged with burglary. The Bail Project put up his $5,000 bail, a condition of which was that he was supposed to complete the Wings of Life treatment program.

A judge set a hearing for March to review his progress, but he failed to appear and was at large until police arrested him last month on a charge that he threatened to kill someone.

Unlike a bonding company, Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said, The Bail Project has no bounty hunters to track people down when they flee.

“The Mobile Police Department did the Bail Project’s job and put him back in jail, and he got immediately back out,” she told FOX10 News. “And the Bail Project is still not having to pay any money.”

Adrienne Johnson, regional director of The Bail Project, said her organization provides an important service for people eligible for release but unable to afford bail. She said the group also provides transportation and reminders of court dates.

“What we do at the bail project is we come in and try to level the playing field by providing bail assistance to individuals who are only in custody because they cannot afford to pay their bail,” she said.

But Rich said it took Singleton getting arrested on a new charge to put him behind bars. She argued that The Bail Project immediately should have been required to forfeit the money.

“It is a public safety concern,” she said. “But for The Bail Project getting exceptional circumstances granted to them, this new offense wouldn’t have happened.”

A judge will determine Thursday if the bail money that the organization put up in Singleton’s case should be forfeited.

It is not the only defendant accused of failing to comply with court orders after getting assistance from The Bail Project. Court records show the organization in August agreed to cover Grand Bay resident Marquita Ross’s restitution of $1,453 in a criminal mischief case if she did not continue to attend court hearings and make payments. She missed a hearing the following month. When she failed to appear again on Wednesday, Mobile County District Judge George Hardesty ordered the money forfeited to the state.

The Bail Project makes no distinction among the type of offenses prisoners are accused off when deciding whether to offer bail support. Johnsons aid the organization offers assistance in violent and nonviolent cases. She noted that judges have the option to deny bail to people considered to pose too a great a risk to flee or endanger the public or impose additional restrictions, such as electronic monitoring.

“We are bailing out folks that a judge has already determined are eligible for release by paying bail,” she said.

The program has the support of Mobile County’s presiding circuit judge, Michael Youngpeter. He told FOX10 News that the program in Mobile County is limited to nonviolent offenders with low bail. He said many of those folks sit in jail so long that they already have served their entire sentence by the time they resolve their cases.

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


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