The KHOU figures regarding personal bond releases are not accurate.
Comparing January-August 2010 with the same time period for 2011:
1. Arrests for defendants with felony charges are down 4.2% in 2011 compared to 2010 (24,255 in 2010, 23,229 defendants in 2011)
2. Similarly, the number of defendants with a felony offense receiving a personal bond is down too, but the decrease is greater at 12.3% (439 defendants in 2010, 385 in 2011). There is a 43% increase in personal bond releases if you compare the same time frames in 2011 with that in 2008. Then, 270 defendants with a felony offense received a personal bond. However, the January-August 2009 releases (414) were higher than what we have experienced so far in 2011.
3. Defendants who had a felony offense and who were released on a personal bond in 2011 represent 1.7% of the defendants arrested with a felony arrest, in 2010 that percent was 1.8%. It was 0.9% in 2008 and 1.5% in 2009. If you compare the percent of defendants arrested for a felony who got a personal bond, that increase is 88.9% (.9 % increasing to 1.7%). But that would be a rather disingenuous portrayal of personal bond release activities.
Did you see the Grits article on the KHOU piece? Puts the 90% increase figure in perspective.Just as Grits suspected, the large percentage increase more reflects how seldom personal bonds have come to be used in recent years as opposed to a significant change in how many are issued. It's one thing to say the number of personal bonds increased 90% from 2008 to 2010, which sounds like a big number. It's quite another to say bonds increased to 1.7% from .9% of all felonies over that period, and actually declined in the year following compared to the high water mark cited in the KHOU statistic.
Bail bondsmen aren't hurting a bit in Houston: They still have tens of thousands of felony defendants who're required to post bonds, even after a minor uptick in defendants released on their own recognizance. No doubt, bail bond companies would prefer that courts never use personal bonds and that every defendant charged with a crime were held in jail unless they post significant bail. But that doesn't mean that's best for the taxpayers or good public safety policy, particularly given the county's jail overcrowding quandary. Reporters would do well to doublecheck or at least provide greater context for stories where their main sources are rent seeking bail bondsmen. It's too easy, as in this case, for self-interest to taint data or misrepresent it in ways that don't reflect what's really going on.