NPR also documents the overarching (and improper?) influence bail bondsmen appear to have over pretrial release decisions in Lubbock County, as evidenced by this notable excerpt:
There are about a dozen bail bond companies in Lubbock, serving a rather small population of 250,000. [Local bail bondsman Ken] Herzog says it's a cutthroat business that leaves no room for even a modest pretrial release program. As an example, he describes a time he was working to make bond for an inmate. A clerk at the courthouse told him that the inmate had been interviewed by pretrial release program workers who were working to get him out of jail.
"I said, 'Oh no, they ain't,' " Herzog says he told the clerk. "So I went to the judge that signed the motion for pretrial and told her what was up. They had no business even talking to this person. They pulled their bond, and I got the person out of jail."
I ask him if he is talking about Henderson from Lubbock's pretrial release office. "If he gets in my business, I told him, 'I do this for a living,' " Herzog says. "I said, 'You don't do that. We set this thing up.' I said 'I'll work with you any way I can, but you're not going to get in my business.' Well, he backed off."
It's unlikely Henderson had much choice. Henderson works for county officials. And county officials are elected.
"We take care of the ones who take care of us," Herzog says. "We don't want to pay anybody off, per se. We just want to support the people who are trying to help our business." ...
According to Lubbock campaign records, bondsmen make frequent donations to elected officials. Indigent jail inmates do not.
I wonder how common is such ex parte contact with judges by bail bondsmen in other counties? I've been covering these issues for a while and not much surprises me anymore, but I had no idea that criminal court judges allowed bondsmen (read: campaign contributors) to approach them ex parte on an individual case to keep a defendant from being processed by the county pretrial release office! I'm not an attorney and I can't say offhand if that's legally permissible, but it sure doesn't pass the smell test.
It also fascinated me to learn that the Lubbock County Jail charges the county pretrial services office for collect calls from inmates, which county commissioners have not given them the budget to accept. Since that's just money shifted from one county department to another, it'd be easy to remedy that, but NPR says it's that way because it's how the bail bondsmen want it.
Strong stuff, read or listen to the whole thing. This is the first in a promised three-part series.