Rapper T.I. and VH1 personality Scrapp Deleon joined forces with a Georgia church this weekend to post bail for 23 nonviolent, mostly first-time offenders, just in time for Easter.
The effort, organized by Lithonia’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, was meant to help 16 men and seven women from DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Rockdale counties get a fresh start, Fox 5 Atlanta reports. Each of the recipients has been paired with a mentor for weekly check-ins, and the church has set aside money to open college funds for the recipients’ children.
“We want to make sure that we disrupt a culture of recidivism, that [the children] do not go back into the system [as] in previous generations,” New Birth’s senior pastor Jamal Bryant said in a Facebook video posted by the church.
According to the Sentencing Project, a group that advocates for prison reform, black and Latino Americans are more likely than white Americans to be denied bail, to have a higher money bond set, and to be detained because they can’t pay bail.
Although the gap between the number of black and white Americans in prison has been shrinking in recent years, black Americans were 12% of the U.S. adult population but 33% of the sentenced prison population in 2016.
New Birth Missionary Baptist Church started raising funds for the bail program at the start of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and reflection that leads up to Easter, the day that Christians believe Jesus Christ was resurrected. The church’s initial goal was to raise $40,000. It ended up raising about $120,000.
It’s unclear what portion of that amount was donated by T.I., also known as Tip, or Deleon.
T.I., who grew up in Atlanta, has been outspoken about his own experiences with the prison system. Since his rise to fame, the rapper has become involved in multiple projects that give back to his community.
Deleon, a star on the VH1 show “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta,” posted an Instagram video of a speech he gave on Saturday about the bail program at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. He called it “an amazing experience.”
Program recipient Tyron Pollard told Fox 5 Atlanta that he was touched by the random act of kindness.
“For people to just reach out, willing to help out of the blue, them not knowing you from nobody ... that’s a blessing,” Pollard said.