'Miraculous': Campaign To Free Jailed Women Hits $200,000
Women who have been incarcerated over unpaid fines will be freed with more than $200,000 raised in a viral crowdfunding campaign.
The campaign to free women, or prevent their incarceration, over unpaid fines in Western Australia is "approaching the miraculous", with more than a huge sum of money raised in just three days.
More than 30 women are in the process of having their fines paid off, while as many as 50 women could be free by early next week.
Two women were released from prison on Wednesday, campaigners confirmed to 10 daily, while eight women have formally had their fines paid down.
"We're trying to release everybody from prison, but we're starting with single parent mums first," campaigner Gerry Georgatos told 10 daily.
More than 4600 people have donated to the #FreeThePeople campaign in the three days since it launched.
Under current state law, the WA Fine Enforcement Registrar can issue a warrant over unpaid fines, which includes minor transgressions like traffic infringements.
But for people living in or close to poverty, "these fines are not affordable from the beginning," Georgatos said, with single Indigenous mothers being disproportionately affected.
However, these laws could soon be a thing of the past. WA's attorney-general is looking at reforming the fine enforcement system in the first half of this year, a spokesperson confirmed to 10 daily.
"This will include significantly restricting the circumstances in which a warrant of commitment (WOC) can be issued and requiring that any application for a WOC be made to a Magistrate," the spokesperson said.
Although they are unable to comment publicly, Georgatos claimed both WA Police and corrective services are on board with the changes.
"They don't want to be jailing the poor, and the police don't want to be arresting people for unpaid fines," he said.
Georgatos is working directly with the Fine Enforcement Registrar to use money raised by decarceration group Sisters Inside to pay off the fines.
The fundraising campaign smashed its original target of $99,000, and has now set its sights on half a million dollars.
Campaign starter Debbie Kilroy said using prison as the default response to poverty and homeless was "unconscionable."
"A lot of the time, fines are related to poverty," she told 10 daily.
"People are poor, they live on the streets, they collide with police, and therefore they get fined. They can't pay the fine, a warrant is issued, and they're incarcerated."
"And they still can't pay the fine."
One woman helped by the campaign had been living in her car for 12 months. Like many others, she had been arrested due to non-payment of fines.
"Today, [the] campaign paid her fines and [she] was released from prison [with] secure accommodation for 12 months," Kilroy said on Wednesday.
"Thank you so much to all who have donated and those continuing to donate. We are freeing Aboriginal mothers and stopping Aboriginal mothers being incarcerated."
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org