Webster's Dictionary defines bail as “the temporary release of a prisoner in exchange for security, given for the prisoner's appearance at a later hearing” while we define it as a destructive court-determined fee to temporary buy a persons freedom before trial. Regardless, activists and academics agree that the bail system is yet another way to penalize low-income people to miss work and destabilize their lives. According to The New York Times, The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world with around 450,000 people held in pretrial incarceration. With that astronomical number of imprisoned Americans alongside the metaphysical shackles of the racist and classist carceral state that manifests beyond bars, it can be daunting to try and envision ways to subvert the state.
Then there was Bail Bloc.
During the 2017 Bitcoin boom, the digital currency that disrupted traditional cash flow and meme culture seemed a bit daunting to those not so privy to contemporary technological discourse. It was around that time The New Inquiry, a independent cultural and literary online magazine, launched Bail Bloc, an app that utilizes your computer’s power to pay bail for low income New Yorkers so they can get out of jail while they await trial. So how does it work? The app harnesses your computer’s processing power to produce Monero, a cryptocurrency very similar to Bitcoin. Then the Monero your computer has generated can be converted into dollars and donated to the Bronx Freedom Fund, directly paying bail fees for New Yorkers who’ve been charged with misdemeanors. Pretty easy right? The app has already donated more than $3,000 worth of Monero to the Freedom Fund within its first month of launching and we’ve been exclusively informed of the possibility their successful cryptocurrency project might convert into a sister app for immigration bond relief!
Bail Bloc’s phenomenally simple interface made for prime candidacy in issue.3: INCARCERATION alongside the creator(s) behind the project. I met Maya Binyam, one of its founders, during the spring of 2017 on a panel at the annual Theorizing the Web Conference held at the Museum of the Moving Image. We were invited to present an extension of our essays published on Real Life Magazine where Binyam expounded on how real-time depictions of September 11 and its aftermath serves the myth of white sovereignty, she immediately caught my attention as a person to watch. Based in New York, Binayam is currently an editor at The New Inquiry and The Paris Review and was gracious enough to chat with SVLLY(wood) on behalf of the editorial team at TNI to explain more about this new subversive cyber-activist initiative.
WHAT is Bail Bloc?
BINYAM: When you download Bail Bloc, a small part of your computer's unused processing power is redirected toward mining a popular cryptocurrency called Monero, which is secure, private, and untraceable. At the end of every month, we exchange the Monero for US dollars and donate the earnings to the Bronx Freedom Fund.
100% of the currency your computer generates is used by the Bronx Freedom Fund to post bail for low-income people detained in New York effective immediately.
WHO created Bail Bloc?
BINYAM: Bail Bloc was created by Grayson Earle, Maya Binyam, Francis Tseng, JB Rubinovitz, Sam Lavigne, Devin Kenny, and the Dark Inquiry collective.
WHEN was Bail Block released?
BINYAM: Bail Bloc launched in November 2017.
WHY was Bail Bloc created?
BINYAM: Bail and cryptocurrency are a generative, if counter-intuitive, pair. Bail is a tool of coercion, predictive policing, and surveillance, but it is also a form of currency mining from low income individuals and communities of color. Bail Bloc allows you to offer your computer as the target for that mining in their stead.
This project is also greater than the sum of its parts, or the sum of its hashrate; This is as much about catapulting a radical criticism of bail into the public imagination as it is about raising bail funds via cryptocurrency. This project seeks to engage people in a dialogue about the fact that the justice system takes as a basic assumption that poor people will not be able to afford bail. Bail Bloc is one tool, among many, to support the varied, long-standing movement for abolition.
WHERE can Bail Bloc be accessed?
BINYAM: Bail Bloc can be used on any desktop or laptop computer anywhere in the world.
You can explore and download the app for free at bailbloc.thenewinquiry.com.