Sunday, August 14, 2005

Should county government subsidize bail bond companies?

This is the third in a series analyzing Harris County bail policies and their effect on jail overcrowding. See Grits fill Harris County jail and bail series linked here.

When one reads of the dramatic shift by Houston's elected judges from releasing defendants on "personal bond," or a promise to appear, to requiring them to post bail in cash, the obvious first question is, Cui bono?, or "Who benefits?" Obviously, elected judges and prosecutors benefit by portraying themselves as "tough on crime" in the next election, but the JMI consulting report hints at another answer -- bail bondsmen. The consultant posed the questions:
First, is it desirable to use the Pretrial Services Agency as a kind of publicly-supported guarantor or service provider for surety bond companies? In cases where a defendant on surety bond is released under special conditions that provide for monitoring and supervision by Pretrial Services, such monitoring and supervision should help ensure the defendant's law-abiding conduct and return for scheduled court appearances. One practical effect of this practice is to reduce the bonding company's risk, at no cost to the bonding company.

Second, to what extent does the pressure to provide supervisory services for defendants released on surety bond (including some defendants who can fairly be characterized as "high risk") tend to divert the agency's staff from performing other essential functions-in particular, (a) the supervision of defendants on personal bond for whom they have direct responsibility; and (b) obtaining and presenting information on low-risk defendants who remain in detention because of inability to post financial bond?
The report makes clear that, in the past, when defendants were released on cash bond, the bonding company took on pretty much full responsibility for their supervision. Today, though, at a time when more defendants than ever in Harris County must pay cash bonds, county Pretrial Services provides substantial supervision over large numbers of bonding agencies' clients. So what justifies the bonding companies' fat fees?

The JMI report never names names, but the authors implicitly accuse surety bond companies of privatizing their fees while Harris County Pretrial Services supervises their clients. The result doesn't just soak defendants and taxpayers, there are also opportunity costs: The policy "divert[s] the ageny's staff from performing other essential functions," especially
identifying low-risk offenders who shouldn't be detained.

If anybody in Houston wanted to take on a fun research project, it'd be interesting to go through the elected judges' contribution and expenditure reports at the Harris County Clerk's elections division to see how often bail bondsmen show up, and how much they give. Those county level contribution reports aren't online. Maybe next time I'm there ...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Comparing your three blogs on Harris County's incarceration rate to your opinion about absconders [August 11 blog] raises a question: Can the high rate of incarcerated defendents in Harris County be related to the low-level of absconders from Harris County's community supervision? Just wondering.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's a VERY good question. Right now, I'm trying to get some clarifying information about the absconder numbers, which I'm being told aren't apples-to-apples across agencies and may not be accurate. Apparently the absconder numbers for some agencies are annual, and for others include absconders going back many years. Hopefully I can nail it down and post on that today or tomorrow. Thanks for raising it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Turns out those absconder numbers aren't accurate, or at least, aren't comparable. I posted a correction here.

Good catch, anonymous!

Anonymous said...

Bail bonds constantly require the bondsman to go after the accused for escaping from the law, or hire someone else as a bounty hunter to do the job. WATCH OUT FOR THE DOG!!!

Bail Bonds

Anonymous said...

Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public figure about the economy or humanity in general. They are all part of the problem. Its like a game of Monopoly. In America, the richest 1% now hold 1/2 OF ALL UNITED STATES WEALTH. Unlike ‘lesser’ estimates, this includes all stocks, bonds, cash, and material assets held by America’s richest 1%. Even that filthy pig Oprah acknowledged that it was at about 50% in 2006. Naturally, she put her own ‘humanitarian’ spin on it. Calling attention to her own ‘good will’. WHAT A DISGUSTING HYPOCRITE SLOB. THE RICHEST 1% HAVE LITERALLY MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. Don’t fall for any of their ‘humanitarian’ CRAP. ITS A SHAM. THESE PEOPLE ARE CAUSING THE SAME PROBLEMS THEY PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT. Ask any professor of economics. Money does not grow on trees. The government can’t just print up more on a whim. At any given time, there is a relative limit to the wealth within ANY economy of ANY size. So when too much wealth accumulates at the top, the middle class slip further into debt and the lower class further into poverty. A similar rule applies worldwide. The world’s richest 1% now own over 40% of ALL WORLD WEALTH. This is EVEN AFTER you account for all of this ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS from celebrities and executives. ITS A SHAM. As they get richer and richer, less wealth is left circulating beneath them. This is the single greatest underlying cause for the current US recession. The middle class can no longer afford to sustain their share of the economy. Their wealth has been gradually transfered to the richest 1%. One way or another, we suffer because of their incredible greed. We are talking about TRILLIONS of dollars. Transfered FROM US TO THEM. Over a period of about 27 years. Thats Reaganomics for you. The wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as we were told it would. It just accumulates at the top. Shrinking the middle class and expanding the lower class. Causing a domino effect of socio-economic problems. But the rich will never stop. They will never settle for a reasonable share of ANYTHING. They will do whatever it takes to get even richer. Leaving even less of the pie for the other 99% of us to share. At the same time, they throw back a few tax deductable crumbs and call themselves ‘humanitarians’. IT CAN’T WORK THIS WAY. This is going to end just like a game of Monopoly. The current US recession will drag on for years and lead into the worst US depression of all time. The richest 1% will live like royalty while the rest of us fight over jobs, food, and gasoline. Crime, poverty, and suicide will skyrocket. So don’t fall for all of this PR CRAP from Hollywood, Pro Sports, and Wall Street PIGS. ITS A SHAM. Remember: They are filthy rich EVEN AFTER their tax deductable contributions. Greedy pigs. Now, we are headed for the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time. SEND A “THANK YOU” NOTE TO YOUR FAVORITE MILLIONAIRE. ITS THEIR FAULT. I’m not discounting other factors like China, sub-prime, or gas prices. But all of those factors combined still pale in comparison to that HUGE transfer of wealth to the rich. Anyway, those other factors are all related and further aggrivated because of GREED. If it weren’t for the OBSCENE distribution of wealth within our country, there never would have been such a market for sub-prime to begin with. Which by the way, was another trick whipped up by greedy bankers and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. The credit industry has been ENDORSED by people like Oprah, Ellen, Dr Phil, and many other celebrities. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘good will’ BS. ITS A LIE. If you fall for it, then you’re a fool. If you see any real difference between the moral character of a celebrity, politician, attorney, or executive, then you’re a fool. WAKE UP PEOPLE. The 1% club will always say or do whatever it takes to get as rich as possible. Without the slightest regard for anything or anyone but themselves. Vioxx. Their idea. Sub-prime. Their idea. NAFTA. Their idea. Outsourcing. Their idea. The commercial lobbyist. Their idea. The multi-million dollar lawsuit. Their idea. $200 cell phone bills. Their idea. $200 basketball shoes. Their idea. $30 late fees. Their idea. $30 NSF fees. Their idea. $20 DVDs. Their idea. Subliminal advertising. Their idea. The MASSIVE campaign to turn every American into a brainwashed credit card, pharmaceutical, love-sick, celebrity junkie. Their idea. All of which concentrate the world’s wealth and resources and wreak havok on society. All of which have been CREATED AND ENDORSED by celebrities, athletes, and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘ good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS. ITS A SHAM. NOTHING BUT TAX DEDUCTABLE PR CRAP. Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. and thats just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world. Causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, and Bill are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. EXTREME WEALTH HAS MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. WITHOUT WORLD PROSPERITY, THERE WILL NEVER BE WORLD PEACE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE. GREED KILLS. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause. WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE.

Anonymous said...

I think I am slightly confused as to what exactly the differences between the different types of bonds there are. Are jail bail bonds similar to corporate bonds? Are there specialist bonds people for all the different types of bonds or can surety bonds people deal with any kind of bond? Also how would I go about getting bonded? Does it depend on previous financial information and if I have a criminal record will that affect anything?

bail bonds los angeles county said...

Bonds are issued to individuals that are in need of them through a variety of means. In many cases a bondsmen will be used. These individuals, or company, will work to have their defendant released, normally within a few hours. They will charge a fee of about 10% to use their services. If a judge sets bail for an individual at $5000, the bondsmen will post the bail once the defendant and the bondsman come to an agreement.

In most cases, the company has a working relationship with the court system in which they will provide a blanket coverage to them. Instead of exchanging property or cash for each defendant that is working with them, they are released under the condition and agreement that the company will pay in case they do not appear for court.

In cases where there is a need for a large amount of bail needed, individuals can use a bail bondsmen for help. For example, if bond for a criminal defendant is set at $100,000, the defendant would need to pay for the bail at the amount of $10,000 as this is ten percent and the fee charged. Since this fee is not refunded, the individual could place the $10,000 on a mortgage on their home if they did not have the funds available.

Individuals needing funds quickly can and should rely on the help of these individuals and companies. In some states, such as Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Oregon, there is no commercial sale of bonds. Yet, in other states, these opportunities are available for individuals that need them.what i think is that ofcourse they should be subsized by the goc.

Los Angeles Bail Bonds said...

I agree with the above poster on this subject. It's complicated, especially for someone from the outside looking in.