DALLAS COUNTY, Texas — Nine former inmates walked out of the Dallas County jail Thursday afternoon, thanks to a faith-based group motivated to make sure poverty isn't one of the reasons the men and women stay locked up.
It was an effort, as promised the day before, by the group Faith in Texas. The "multi-racial, multi-faith grassroots movement" is dedicated to raising funds to get those accused of low-level offenses out of jail pending trial. They raise the cash bail for people too poor to do it themselves, giving them a chance to get out of jail just like wealthier people do.
"Individuals are in shock that they're like, 'wow, a church is gonna [sic] bail us out?' And we're like, 'yeah,'" said Mark Walters Jr., the bail fund organizer for Faith in Texas, who said they attempt to post bail every Friday for as many people as they can.
But on Thursday, Faith in Texas arrived with $100,000 in hand: enough for nine more inmates to be released.
"How you doing brother? How you feel?" Walters said to one of the first men released.
"Blessed, truly," he responded.
The inmates released were given a chance to call their family and friends and were also given $100 as an additional Christmas gift.
Robin Wilks, who admits he was arrested for shoplifting a few days after Halloween in Rockwall, was among that first group released.
"I didn't accept it at first. I didn't believe it," he said. "It's loving. It's loving. Love is good."
Faith in Texas also posted $10,000 cash bail for Willie McNealy. He's been in the Dallas County jail since September, waiting for his next court date in January for a theft, he said, he didn't commit.
"I'm just grateful and thankful for this organization and people, you know what I mean," McNealy said. "I'm flabbergasted. Overwhelmed. I've got butterflies. I'm glad to be standing up here talking to you knowing I can go home and talk to my people now and have Christmas with them. That's a joyful Christmas spirit."
Faith in Texas wants to do this as much as donations to their effort allows.
"Just building a relationship, and letting people know we're here for you and we want you to be successful," said Walters.
A gift of freedom McNealy promises not to squander. Not this time. Not this Christmas.
"I appreciate y'all interviewing me. I appreciate y'all," he said before he headed home to family in South Oak Cliff. "I wish you all a happy Merry Christmas and a happy New Year."