App uses cryptocurrency to help detainees pay ICE bail money

App uses cryptocurrency to help detainees pay ICE bail money

A new app mines cryptocurrency and uses the funds garnered to help pay bail for individuals detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The app, called Bail Bloc, lets users donate their computer memory towards mining the cryptocurrency Monero, and then donates the mined assets to the Immigration Bail Fund, a non-profit which contributes money towards bond for people being held by ICE in Connecticut. 

The app was originally launched in 2017, but only helped contribute money toward the bond of people being detained in the Queens and Bronx boroughs of New York City, via the Bronx Freedom Fund.

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The relaunch is by “Dark Inquiry” a collective of technologists, artists, writers and researchers, which include former New Yorker writer Adrian Chen and notable artist, writer and geographer Trevor Paglen. The collective is a project of The New Inquiry, an online political and cultural magazine.

The coalition has launched other software advocating for social or political change, including an app that highlighted white collar crime hotspots in response to police hotspot maps that critics say target low-income or racially diverse areas.

Bail Bloc works by letting users donate a small portion of their computer memory toward mining Monero. The group specifically picked Monero because of its accessibility to everyday computer users. Unlike many other cryptocurrencies, it can only be mined normal consumer computers instead of special hardware specifically designed for crypto mining.

With the app, the New Inquiry and their partners, the Bronx Freedom Fund and Immigration Bail Fund, hope to make it possible for lower-income individuals to stay out of jail while they await trial.

“For our community in the South Bronx, ‘innocent until proven guilty’ does not apply,” reads a message on Bronx Freedom Fund’s homepage. “With one of the most backlogged court systems in the country, people wait years before going to trial. Even one night in jail can cause someone to lose their job, their housing, and even custody of their children. “

The New Inquiry said that it would match the amount in U.S. dollars that Monero mined between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15 of this year.

Dark Inquiry is associated with very different parts of the tech community than Silicon Valley, but their relaunch of Bail Bloc comes as other tech companies also push back on ICE and the administration's immigration policies.

Workers at companies including Salesforce, Microsoft and Amazon called on company leadership to cut ties with ICE and Customs and Border Protection to protest the administration's family separation policy at the border.

On Thursday, Accenture workers joined Silicon Valley firms in calling for their company to stop working with the government on border enforcement as well.