The Larry Hoover Project in partnership with Faith in Texas and For Oak Cliff is launching Operation Exodus, a large-scale bailout initiative in response to COVID-19 spreading at alarming rates in jails and prisons. Operation Exodus is a collaborative effort fueled by grassroots organizations, community leaders, small businesses, and formerly incarcerated people to free those in jail who cannot afford to post bail and are at increased risk of contracting the coronavirus. The campaign, which will begin in June in celebration of Juneteeth and continue until the threat of COVID-19 dissipates, aims to raise enough funds to bail out at least 250 people from the Dallas County jail.
In the spirit of freedom ushered in by the Juneteeth holiday, Operation Exodus will secure the release of pre-trial detainees in local jails who cannot afford bail. The goal of Operation Exodus is to flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19 by making sure jail institutions can adequately implement social distancing. This will save the lives of the most at risk and vulnerable both inside and outside of jails. Operation Exodus will allow those who have been released the opportunity to self-quarantine in safe confines before returning home to ensure the virus isn’t spread back into the greater community.
“In the height of this COVID-19 pandemic, waiting for your day in court could very well result in a death sentence,” said For Oak Cliff Executive Director Taylor Toynes. “Most people in jail have not been convicted of any crime and are there only because they cannot afford the price of their freedom. For Oak Cliff exists to liberate people from systemic oppression and we will not stand by while a broken system profits off of the pain and suffering of those in our community who need our support the most.”
Operation Exodus will begin its program of mass bailouts in Dallas but hopes to expand to other hard-hit cities as resources are made available. The coalition will work together to execute the following:
- Facilitate bail for pre-trial detainees with justice-focused nonprofit organizations and bail funds
- Provide free COVID-19 testing to those released
- Offer wraparound services of food, transportation, and hygiene kits to support those released
“As we continue the battle for liberation on many fronts, the needs of the present health emergency demonstrate what should have been clear all along — prisons and jails are a threat to public health and safety,” said Lola Vinson, spokesperson for Faith in Texas. “As a multi-faith organization, we believe that all people have inherent worth and deserve to be treated with care and respect. People who are incarcerated have a right to safety and dignity. Therefore, due to the inaction of our public officials, we are taking the necessary action to free our people.”
Jails and prisons are the sources of many of the nation’s largest coronavirus outbreaks, with the number of confirmed infections doubling in the past month alone. In Texas, more than 7,400 incarcerated people and 1,100 employees statewide have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“It’s widely accepted that this country’s justice system is broken and that it unfairly targets and punishes minorities and poor people,” said organizer and liberation attorney Justin A. Moore of The Larry Hoover Project. “Through a collective community effort, we have the ability to help those most vulnerable in our community. Our jails continue to serve as breeding grounds for the virus and the results will be devastating if there isn’t quick action.”
Operation Exodus supports the larger justice movement in this country that aims to end predatory cash bail practices. This movement comes from a legacy of freedom fighters and resistance efforts dating back to abolitionist movements during slavery, through civil rights activism in the 1960s and to the current war to end mass incarceration now.
For more information about Operation Exodus, please visit: hooverproject.org/opexodus