Activists Take on Mass Incarceration with Crowdfunding Bail for African Americans

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

According to a 2016 report from the Prison Policy Initiative, over 600,000 Americans are incarcerated in local jails every day. An estimated 70% of these inmates are being held for pretrial detention without being convicted of a crime because the bails being set for them are too high for most of their families to afford – an increasing trend among the poor. These statistics inspired two tech activists, Kortney Ziegler and Tiffany Mikel, to create an app that directly combats this issue through crowdfunding and a simple message of using your spare change for freedom. While a massive overhaul of our crooked and unfair justice system is surely needed, the founders of Appolition are taking a large slice of power and putting in back into the hands of the oppressed and the shackled. According to co-founder Kortney Ziegler, he simply tweeted out his idea over the summer and received overwhelming positive feedback from his online community and decided to begin its development with fellow activist Tiffany Mikel. Seven months later this platform has generated over 6,000 users.

The app was modeled after other spare change apps that are traditionally used as a means for users to save money. The concept behind Appoltion is pretty straightforward, using your small savings to save lives. The way it works is simple, you link your desired card or bank account to your account on the app and continue to spend money like normal, the app then rounds every transaction up to the nearest dollar and donates the “spare change” to the National Bail Out Campaign. An organization that made national headlines in 2017 for their campaign to bail out black mothers on Mother’s Day and black dads on Father’s Day in an effort to end mass incarceration.

This story received astonishingly little coverage last year in corporate media despite growing public indignation over the prison-industrial complex and widespread calls to end systemic inequality. Corporate media did give it minor coverage, at least twice: CBS’s San Francisco affiliate covered Appoltion in a brief video clip. FoxNews covered it in an article focusing on how costly jailing innocent people is on the tax payers. Both sources failed to paint the full story, and the good that can come from community participation in reducing social injustice. Discussing simple, effective solutions like crowdfunding bail to free the low income citizens from a biased criminal justice system is both empowering and necessary to effect meaningful change.


Sidney Fussell, “This Tech Activist Wants to Donate Your Spare Change to Bail Relief.” Gizmodo, October 26, 2017.

Natelegé Whaley, “Appolition is Collecting ‘Spare Change for Freedom’ and Bailing Black People Out of Jail.” Mic, December, 26, 2017.

Student Researcher: Bethany Surface (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)