CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Carolina Panthers players are finding a new reason for the season.
The Carolina Panthers Player Impact Committee and the David Tepper Charitable Foundation are teaming up with The Bail Project to help low-income people accused of non-violent crimes get out of jail.
They are donating nearly $100,000 to help the Bail Project’s efforts in the Queen City. That will include Thanksgiving meal packages and gift cards for groceries, clothes and other essentials for those released.
“People are being held in jail while they are legally presumed innocent just because they cannot afford the bail,” Carolina Panthers spokesperson Bruce Speight said.
They are working together to stop the cycle.
“We are all determined that no one will stay in jail through bail reform that has not been found guilty of a charge,” Shelton McElroy, The Bail Project National Director of Strategic Partnerships said. “Wealth-based detention should not happen in Charlotte.”
Thanks to their efforts, 25 people in Mecklenburg County will be released before Thanksgiving.
Public Defender Kevin Tully says these releases do not put our community in danger and in fact sometimes it’s the opposite.
“People commit crimes in order to come up with that money and that makes us all less safe and that’s something people don’t normally recognize,” Tully said.
They’re giving people a chance by recognizing that by law they are innocent until proven guilty.
Gemini Boyd knows what a gift that is. He spent 20 years behind bars.
“It’s hard to put words to being binded in a cage and then once you’re out there’s no words that you can typically explain that feeling," Boyd said.
They are trying to reduce the damage caused by jail time.
"Miss Priscilla was the primary custodian of her 5 year old grandbaby. We got her out but it was about 7 days later she lost her job."
He says 10 days later the charge against her was dismissed.
Tightend Chris Manhertz wants to do his part to make sure this stops happening.
“Encouraging the Charlotte community to really pay attention to this,” Manhertz said.
Another important component of this are the wraparound services that the accused will get when they leave jail. Local church New Birth Charlotte is helping to make sure they stay on track with court appearances and keeping a job.