Cryptocurrencies may be the new "get out of jail card". Bail Bloc is an app that enables users to donate part of their computer’s processing power (approximately 10%) to help post bail for low-income defendants via Monero, a cryptocurrency. (See also: Monero: For Black Markets Where Bitcoin Isn't Enough.)
At the end of each month, Moneros are mined with the donated power and then exchanged for U.S. dollars, with the money donated to the Bronx Freedom Fund, a nonprofit that helps post bail for low-income defendants charged with low-level offenses. Typically, in many cases, these people cannot post bail and are held until their trial date. (See also: The 6 Most Important Cryptocurrencies Other Than Bitcoin.)
Bail Bloc expects to generate an average of $3 to $5 per user per month and does not collect personal information, and only temporarily stores IP addresses. “It might not seem like much, but because of the revolving fund model (meaning funds revert back to source, when the defendant shows up for a court date), it adds up quickly,” the app’s creators state on its website.
The Bronx Freedom Fund was started in the South Bronx in New York City but is planning to expand its operations nationwide soon. According to its website, the fund has posted bail for 600 people in 2017. A reduction in the numbers for pretrial detainees may also help bring down overall prison costs. (See also: Prison Stocks Boosted By Justice Department Reversal Of Scale Back.)
Dark Inquiry, the arts and technology collective responsible for this venture, calls it a “rhetorical software project.” In an interview with the New Yorker magazine, JB Rubinovitz, an artificial intelligence engineer who is part of the collective, said she did not “want the project to be all talk.” As a result, the project is designed to expose “the anti-human logic of dominant technological power.”
In another publication, the app’s founders state that their aim with this project is to “weaponize excessive computing power against the Prison Industrial Complex.” Grayson Earle, an activist associated with the project, told qz.com that even if they got “a single person out on bail with this...it will have been worth it.”