A Portland organization working to cover the exorbitant cost of bail for people of color incarcerated in Multnomah County has secured the release of new dad Virgil Lee Adams just in time for Father's Day.
Adams, 20, was arrested on February 13, 2017, on charges of robbery and assault. But, despite being found not guilty in August, Adams was held in jail on other unrelated charges he hasn't been convicted of. Thus, he was incarcerated for a total of 16 months without being found guilty of any crime. Adams missed the birth of his child, Virgil Junior, while behind bars.
Thanks to donations raised by Portland Bail Out to cover his $10,000 bail, Adams was released from Multnomah County Detention Center on June 7, and is currently on house arrest, according to Portland Bail Out. His next court date is set for September.
Portland Bail Out is now accusing the Multnomah County District Attorney's office of reinstating an old case after the acquittal—just to keep Adams behind bars longer.
“He beats his case, then they reinstate old charges," said Gregory McKelvey, an organizer with Portland's Resistance who's helped publicize Portland Bail Out's work. Editor's Note, June 18: The Multnomah County District Attorney released a timeline of Adams' arrests, showing that his charges were actually reinstated before his other trial began. He was joined by Gina Spencer, founder of Portland Bail Out, at an afternoon press conference across the street from the Multnomah County Courthouse.
"This case highlights the injustices of the cash bail system, a system that preys on people of color and the poor," said Spencer.
This isn't the first time Spencer has raised funds to bail people out of jail. Portland Bail Out has an ongoing crowdfunding campaign devoted to releasing Black people from jail, and covered bail for two women in May just before Mother's Day—but was only able to secure one woman's release. Spencer says the organization has helped bail out four people so far, and she's continuing to seek people who need her help. Spencer is currently raising money to release incarcerated people before Juneteenth, the June 19th holiday celebrating the abolishment of slavery.
"If we can help, then we will pay that bail. We have limited funds, so lower bail amounts are more accessible, but we can help," says Spencer.
The group hopes Adams' release puts pressure on District Attorney Rod Underhill. "We demand justice for Virgil Adams, and we know this isn’t an isolated case," said Cameron Whitten, director of racial equity group Brown Hope. "There are a ton of black, brown, and poor people who are suffering from long term detention within our jail system and the criminality of our cash bail system.”
Whitten suggests that the cash bail system should be based on economic ability. Otherwise, he says, "you're using poverty as a weapon to imprison people who deserve justice."