Friday, January 22, 2010

NPR investigates Lubbock bail system: Should taxpayers foot a $7K incarceration bill for stealing $30 worth of blankets?

About half a dozen readers this morning fowarded me the link to this excellent piece from National Public Radio titled "Bail Burden Keeps US Jails Stuffed with Inmates," which features the Lubbock County Jail as its prime example. The story opens by describing the case of Leslie Chew, a homeless man arrested for stealing four blankets worth $30 from a grocery store to stay warm while he was living in his station wagon last winter. At the time the reporter spoke to him last August, Lubbock taxpayers had spent $7,068 to incarcerate Mr. Chew because he could not make bail.

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.


Anonymous said...

Wow, this makes some things a lot clearer to me about Smith County. I'm sure this goes on here too.

Steve said...

I admire NPR and I think there are some very valid points to this story. Unfortunately, there are some significant inaccuracies in it. For example, the reason we do not accept collect calls from people in jail is a policy decision, not a financial one. I doubt that any adult probation department in the state accepts collect calls from jail because we would be swamped all day about all kinds of matters. (By the way, we are not a county agency, so our budget and the jail's budget do not come from the same pool of money.)

The story also doesn't go very deep into the backgrounds of the defendants. Both had prior convictions (one had six prior misdemeanor convictions and a prior felony conviction). One of them made bond through a bonding company last year and has absconded.

Nevertheless, the point of the story is well-taken. There are many people who could be released on pretrial supervision, but they have to pay for a bond instead.

Anonymous said...

Smith County judges use high bails to punish defendants by bankrupting them, (forcing a plea) or holding them in jail for long periods, (forcing a plea.) The whole lot of SC judges should be thrown out, especially Jack Skeen.

The reasonable and just outcome for someone who stole 30 bucks worth of blankets would be to arrest him, take the blankets, make him spend the night in jail and then cut him loose and toss the case.....with four blankets and his name on the Salvation Army list. Spending 7K is insane....unless its some other kind of money making business on the shown.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Steve, FWIW, they didn't say adult probation couldn't receive calls - they're talking about pretrial services. Different thing.

Steve said...

Grits, I guess I should have explained myself better. In Lubbock, pretrial services is part of the CSCD (adult probation department). There are no other government-operated pretrial services except through us. We have a supervisor and seven pretrial officers, with over 1,700 defendants on pretrial supervision. I'm the director of the department, so I better know what I'm talking about here.

Anonymous said...

Steve: Is the statement made by Herzog true(pertaining to him telling the judge the bonding company was losing money and he needed to bond this person)?

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Not the least bit surprised that NPR might leave out some "minor" priors such as one of the offenders having multiple priors and another being a bail jumper. I never cease to be amazed at how the bleeding hearts will grab onto a couple of seemingly sympathetic anecdotal examples of whatever "injustice" they are whining about. They never give you the complete story regarding the true story and the real reason the turd was convicted/locked up/received a stiff sentence/got the death penalty, etc.. It's always later that you find out what the late Paul Harvey called "the rest of the story!"

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Gotcha, thanks Steve, for clarifying that.

How bout the main case study, Mr. Chew? Were there extenuating circumstances in his case?

And like Retired 2004, I'm curious whether the story about bail bondsmen interfering with yall's business is accurate.

Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

The system would fall apart without bail bondsmen. No one would look for skips.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

4:31: Most nations on the planet have abolished commercial bail, as have, according to NPR, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Do you suppose none of those other jurisdictions have developed methods for handling skips?

Anonymous said...

Not only have those 4 states outlawed commercial bail bonds, 3 of the 4(Wisconsin is the odd man out) have outlawed bounty hunters as well.

If you're a bounty hunter from out of state and someone runs to one of those states, you have to go before a judge and bring them proof, and then the judge orders the local police to arrest the bail jumper.

And yet, we don't have an epidemic of people running to those states, or an epidemic of people running in those states.

Anonymous said...

"Smith County judges use high bails to punish defendants by bankrupting them, (forcing a plea) or holding them in jail for long periods, (forcing a plea.) The whole lot of SC judges should be thrown out, especially Jack Skeen."

Amen. Someone is actually running against Skeen in the upcoming primary. Of course, he's running against the entire corrupt Smith County political machine so I don't know what his chances are. I hope the people of Smith County are starting to wake up to what's going on. Skeen does set bond's as punishment. I'm pretty sure he doesn't even know what the law actually says about setting bonds because I've personally heard him say that the only thing he can consider is the seriousness of the offense.

By the way, the Smith County DA, Matt Bingham was quoted making a very telling statement a while back in an article about the Mineola Swinger's Club Case. One of the defendant's was trying to get their bond lowered and Bingham told the reporter that it was his decision whether to lower the bond or not and he wasn't going to. In Smith County (in Skeen's court at least) the DA sets the bond. Bingham's comment was true because Skeen is going to set the bond at whatever the DA's office wants it set at.

Another interesting thing related to bondsmen in Smith County. A few years ago some of the jailers were caught taking gifts (I believe it involved bottles of some alcoholic beverage) in exchange for referring people to a certain bondsmen. If my memory is correct I believe a jailer testified to this in front of a grand jury. Oddly, no one was ever prosecuted. I've also heard tha this same bondsmen used to take members of the Sheriff's department on gambling trips.

Anonymous said...

It’s hard to get a starting point here because the NPR is so absurd and it’s difficult to respond to such absurdity.

For starters the jail is full of people because they have been charged with a crime (generally). Some people are in jail because they are charged with serious offenses, others are charged with an offense and they have multiple priors, and a lot of people in are jail because they are in jail on a probation violation with no bond. The state legislature makes these laws and the District Attorneys office has a bail schedule to follow. To say that bail bondsmen nationwide are responsible for this is so incredibly incredible, it’s just incredible.

Keep in mind here that Lubbock isn’t the kind of place you really want to go getting yourself into trouble in either; ask anybody from Lubbock, they don’t have a whole lot of tolerance for bad behavior there, they probably feel pretty good about their jail too.

Anyway since the NPR wants to spout out ridiculousness, try this for ridiculous:

According to Steve the Pretrial Services Department of the CSCD is currently supervising 1700 pretrial defendants, and as he stated he should know because he is the director of the program in Lubbock. And, according to NPR the local bail bondsmen are responsible for the release of about 60 pretrial defendants daily, or 21,120 defendants per year, (give or take).

According to The Bureau of Justice Statistics 1 out of every 100 people in the United States is in jail on average.

According to NPR the wheels of justice move pretty slowly in Lubbock if you’re in jail. However, if you are out of jail they say it is a different story, and they give reference to several criminal defendants that had their cases disposed of within 2 weeks.

Assuming the pretrial supervision through CSCD consists of mostly low level offenses, more misdemeanors than anything else I would expect, Steve could help us out here I’m sure, then for those who are out on some kind of bail or another the prospect of getting to court and getting things buttoned up would be, oh lets say (not 2 weeks) but about 4 months on the outside.

Pretrial Services supervise about 1700 of these defendants, so then, lets multiply that by 3 and add another 5100 defendants to our yearly average, we are averaging here somebody find Jethro or maybe get someone at NPR to help.

That would be 21,120 pus 5100 or 26,220 criminal defendants per year in a city with a population of 250,000. If we divide that out it looks like about 1 out of every 10 people in the city of Lubbock get locked up every year, divide that by the same 4 month period and it looks like Lubbock locks up about three times the national average. NPR says 2/3 of the people locked up consist of low level offenses so let’s say they only lock up twice the national average (wrongly). Now unless the NPR got some of their figures wrong it looks like fuzzy math. Did anybody find Jethro?

Unless of course the same people were getting rearrested all the time, but then that would make it a little more difficult to sell this let em go stuff to anybody wouldn’t it, you know, lock em up, let em go, lock em up, let em go.

Why lock em up at all?

So a Wal-Mart is missing a few TV’s, and who cares if a few merchants sit back and watch while their merchandise goes out the door right in front of them, and what’s wrong with a few bad checks in the cash register. Oh I know maybe since NPR has all this expendable income they could subsidize the merchants for their losses with TAX FUNDED GRANT MONEY, and while they are at it set up a free TV’s and Blankets for all telethon to save some jail space

Don said...

anon 8:32
That's quite an essay, albeit a little disjointed. The point Grits was making was that it cost Lubbock County taxpayers 7 grand to incarcerate a guy who stole $30 worth of blankets to keep warm. It's not about soft on crime, bleeding hearts. It's about fiscal responsibility. Lubbock County jail is and has been overcrowded; there is a new jail being built that is a year behind schedule and millions of dollars in budget overruns. Actually, Lubbock taxpayers are not all that happy with their jail situation. There are people in jail that don't need to be in jail. Some of them may be innocent and set free if they ever get to a trial or judge. The Texas Lege has given LE to choice to arrest low level mj users or possessors, or cite and summons them. They still arrest them. That's just an example. Grits has pointed out many different proven ways to reduce jail populations, but counties such as Lubbock refuse to embrace them. (I live in Levelland; 30 miles from Lubbock which is the nearest "big" town).
"Keep in mind here that Lubbock isn’t the kind of place you really want to go getting yourself into trouble in either; ask anybody from Lubbock, they don’t have a whole lot of tolerance for bad behavior there". Depends on who you are. If you saw the story about a judge's son and his DWI, you know what I mean. This was a DWI wreck with injuries, and he became one of Steve's PT wards without ever getting arrested.
Steve, to me it's not that they have to pay for a bond when they could be released without one. If they can pay for the bond, fine. But if they can't they taxpayers have to pay unnecessarily for their incarceration. (Probably should be more PR bonds).
Back to anon. 8:32. Punishment is not the purpose of pre-trial incarceration, or high bonds. They are both to insure the person shows up when he is supposed to.
Sounds like this "innocent until proven guilty" stuff really chaps your ass!

Anonymous said...

I love Texas, but have to say that other jurisdictions handle the pretrial release issue a whole lot better. I practiced law in Washington DC for two years - regular trial court work. Bail bonds were virtually unknown. Pretrial services would interview the arrestee and recommend what conditions of pretrial release would likely result in their return to court: often included reporting for drug testing, checking in with pretrial services, sometimes twice a day by phone or in person, staying at a specified address, etc. Defense counsel could argue for fewer conditions, but the conditions were generally pretty reasonable.

I was always amazed by how many people showed back up at court, even with no $$$ at stake. And as defense counsel you could educate the client about how showing an ability to cooperate with the system would play out well in sentencing, if it came to that. The jail was hideous, and overcrowded, but would have been far worse without the pretrial release system. Texas bail bonds are just a money-making racket and the legislature should clean up this grotesque system - but probably won't because its members doubtless receive generous campaign contributions from the bail bondsmen.

Having said which, die-hard defense person that I am, I thought the NPR reporter was naive and seemed to have taken the inmates' stories at face value, rather than checking out all the facts.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:32, how does spending $7,000 in tax dollars help the merchant whose $30 worth of merchandise was stolen? Do those merchants like paying higher taxes needlessly? If taxpayers are going to fork over $7,000 on that particular problem, mightn't there be more constructive ways to spend that money?

Anonymous said...

If the six district judges in Lubbock worked more than half a day Monday through Friday, they might be able to dispose of those awaiting trial while sitting in jail. They seem to have time to have all these hearings for the fired goofy Tech football coach.

Anonymous said...

In response to anno 8:32

My essay was disjointed, I agree, and done so to show just how ridiculous it would be to give any credence to the reporting of the truth and nothing but the truth by NPR or any other reporting media when they make wide range assumptions and their research is completely void of any real investigation.

Nothing in my essay is backed up by anything; I have no Earthly idea of how folks in Lubbock feel about their jail, or how many people they arrest each year, or how tolerant they are toward crime in their community. However, my essay makes about as much sense as theirs does when they make statements about things they have no Earthly clue about. To single out, what appears to be by their reporting a “good ol’ boy” system in a small town or if you like a “big town” in Texas and say this is how it works from coast to coast is about as far from the truth as the east is from the west, which is what they state as being factual, based on random investigation [at best], and only shows their own bias perspective, and gives credence to their own bias agenda.

I have no problem with public broadcasting or with them receiving grants through tax dollars as long as they stick to the programs and issues that do not include taking advantage of an audience that has been provided for them by giving editorial and discussing political issues that favor liberal thinking, conservative thinking, or moderate thinking, stay away from politics, religion, or any other controversial topic that is controversial because others have different opinions than you do; free speech shouldn’t include tax funded propaganda, get on all the soap boxes you want as long as your doing it on your on dime.

If you want to be a not for profit, publicly funded entity, then politics should be taboo and when it is not, then it is just another “good ol’ boy” system that should be investigated just like the alleged “good ol’ boy” system in Lubbock. These are matters for the attorneys and judiciary whom have sworn an oath to uphold the law to investigate and find solutions.

They give reference to a bondsman speaking with a judge to sway his bail decision, their application would seem to me to be the same thing only on a much larger scale and they did not ask the bondsman if it would be ok with him if a few of his tax dollars were spent for the purposes of trashing him. I doubt he would have given the okydoke, but it looks like he sure received it. Sounds like the pot is calling the kettle a cooking tool!

Google has decided that China isn’t a great place to be, and I don’t care to be doing any business there either, propaganda is propaganda and sits right next to words like censorship, power, influence, corruption, and tyranny when it is being subsidized by tax dollars through government grants, there’s no way to get around that circle of money.

Grits has his opinion and I applaud all he does, even the stuff I don’t agree with, but he isn’t funded by tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

Oh and BTW Grits I don’t think your investigation of states and other countries that do not have commercial bail will fare well in the skip recovery category.

The tax funded pretrial release system has more than their fair share of flaws, and what NPR has to say about them “just aint so”. They have an agenda, a Federal, State and Local government agenda, a huge one that has tons of tax dollars going their way, and part of it promotes the drug testing of all of these innocent till proven guilty defendants. Harris County has just implemented a program where if a defendant is found with trace amounts of narcotics, a crack pipe comes to mind, then they will not be prosecuted in the District Courts for a felony any longer, they will be treated as a class c misdemeanor, if arrested at all. I have no problem with this, but why then are they spending huge amounts of tax dollars (HUGE AMOUNTS) not a couple of dollars a day like the NPR suggests to drug test presumed innocent defendants through Pretrial Release Programs, (AND THEN, IF THEY COME UP DIRTY, SENDING THEM BACK TO JAIL) when if they had the crack pipe in their hand they would be just fine. A huge part of the reason that they are no longer prosecuting these cases is because drug testing is so expensive! America is growing very tired of Big Government in a Big Way and rightfully so, they spend tax dollars in ways that don’t make sense.

The Government Pretrial Release appearance ratios come in the way of smoke and mirrors and the NPR nor does anyone else have a true picture of how they operate. The last independent study in 2004 published by the University of Chicago, in (Illinois) where there are no bail bondsman, in their Journal of Law and Economics paints a much different picture (Google it) of how effective commercial bail bondsmen are in the U.S. and their research makes the NPR reporter look like a penny waiting for change, and we all know what that’s worth.

The NPR gives reference to 20 years ago, 20 years ago the Harris County Constables office was saddled with the responsibility of going after the absconders civilly to make them pay for their Pretrial Release bonds that they forfeited and that nobody was held responsible for, except tax payers (of course), and they had a room stacked to the ceiling with paper and bunny trails just to get through it. The thought was, why are we even trying to go after them, we don’t have the man power to go out and find them, wherever they are, to arrest them for not showing up and yet we are supposed to go and collect from them? That little process of arresting someone, and releasing someone, and then trying to find that someone when they do not appear has a whole dedicated system of government dedicated to itself and the paper and man power generated to keep it going cost a pretty penny to tax payers with very poor results.

I agree whole heartedly that anyone charged with a low level crime that is truly indigent, should have protection under the law; they should be able to get out of jail and they should be able to get real legal representation.

Anonymous said...

I also feel that for the most part a review of each criminal defendant’s prior criminal record, prior appearance, and history, ties to the community, risk to the community, and nature of the offense with which they are currently being charged, and possible flight risk are being assessed by each individual judge to determine their possible release now.

I feel that the system would benefit if a few reasonable practices were implemented. The truth is that criminal defendants are in jail for a reason. The truth is that a huge portion of these defendants will make bail and a large portion of the ones that do not, have a variety of circumstances that surround their incarceration.

When someone is charged with a low level offense and has not made bail within a reasonable amount of time then that should be brought to the attention of the court and revisited to determine why. If a judge finds in their review that the defendant has an extensive criminal history then it is reasonable to assume that they are not going to change their behavior and releasing them back into the community isn’t necessarily the correct measure to take. For those who have no criminal background a reasonable time frame would be 48 hours, because anyone who can get out isn’t going to sit in jail. For those who do have criminal backgrounds you still have to determine how many strikes a person gets before they are out, regardless of the nature of the offense. You can’t just throw a flower blanket on a dung pile and pretend it’s not a pile of dung, some of these criminal defendant’s aren’t going to change their behavior until they hit rock bottom, and rock bottom may not help some, but you can’t just ignore their behavior when it is reasonable to assume from an already established track record that they are coming back soon.

I think drugs are a health issue and the illegalization of drugs promotes a huge portion of crime directly related to drugs and the illegalization of drugs, but until the government thinks so too we are going to continue fill the jails of this country.

This piece by the NPR, and I mean that in every sense of the word, is poorly constructed, bias, overreaching and deceptive on so many levels, that it is, as I have already stated, absurd.

Anonymous said...

"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."

I think you can make the arguement that either the judge or the bail bondsmen is soliciting which is a violation.

In this scenario, the bail bondsman contacted a judge to keep a defendant from being processed by the county pretrial release office! The judge might have the appearance of solicitng for the bail bondsman which is a Class B misdemeanor under Texas law.

Sec. 1704.304. PROHIBITED RECOMMENDATIONS OR SOLICITATIONS; OFFENSE. (a) A bail bond surety or an agent of a bail bond surety may not recommend or suggest to a person for whom the bail bond surety executes a bond the employment of an attorney or law firm in connection with a criminal offense.

(b) The following persons may not recommend a particular bail bond surety to another person:

(1) a police officer, sheriff, or deputy;

(2) a constable, jailer, or employee of a law enforcement agency;

(3) a judge or employee of a court;

(4) another public official; or

(5) an employee of a related agency.

(c) A bail bond surety or an agent of a bail bond surety may not solicit bonding business in a police station, jail, prison, detention facility, or other place of detainment for persons in the custody of law enforcement.

Perhaps a stretch here but certainly inappropriatre for the court to intervene on behalf of a bail bondsman.

Retired LE

Anonymous said...

So - can anyone here identify the bail bondsman and judge in question?

Anonymous said...

Judge was a "she." McNamara? Farmer? Parker? Stratton? Hernandez?

Anonymous said...

Regarding contact by bailbondsmen with judges, a few years ago the Houston Chronicle published a story about bailbondsmen actually nominating people to serve on the grand juries. Harris County uses a key-man system in many courts to identify and select grand jury members and the courts have actually used bondsmen to identify willing people to sit on a grand jury. Not a bad gig - put people on the grand jury who will indict on the highest charge to require the highest possible bail! :~)

Anonymous said...

I have been in the bail bond business for 30 years and I have never once approached a judge to give my opinion about a particular defendants pretrial release bond, nor have I ever heard of such a thing.

I have however suggested to hundreds and hundreds of people over the years that a pretrial release bond may be available to them, and given them the information in order for them to determine if they wanted to proceed with making bonding arrangements or if they wanted to wait a few hours to see if the person would be given a pretrial release. I have contacted pretrial release and made inquiries for my potential customers on hundreds of occasions as well.

What seems strange to me is that so many of the defendants who are released through Government Pretrial Release are capable of posting bail and as I have already stated these same customers were ready to come to our office, when so many others who have contacted our office and truly did not have the means to post a bail bond are refused a pretrial release when the person they are trying to get out of jail has no criminal history. It is almost as if the indigent, the ones you would think are more likely to receive a government pretrial release are the least likely to actually get one; it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I think the NPR has a very bias perspective in their article and do not portray the mainstream within the industry.

yvette99 said...

All the justice system is corrupt, it is and always will be about the money...
The more money you have the more justice you can buy...
No money ...No justice...
They need to get rid of all of them from the top to the bottom, then maybe you might get some truth and justice in the system....but don't hold your breath..

Anonymous said...

I don’t believe that everyone in the system is corrupt, but I do believe that the best reforms would be something that has some semblance of fairness.

The money that surrounds politics, the power that politicians hold, and the arrogance that seems to resonate within most politicians really is detestable and something should be done.

They seem to be completely detached from reality, and yet because they hold such an incredible amount of power over the lives of so many and are in fact the lawmakers it would seem that the only possible solution would be to vote them out of office every election for a couple of decades until they start truly thinking about the things we the people think are important.

How is it possible for State Legislatures, and the Federal Government to come up with so many new laws year after year after year is mind boggling. We have over 100 new taxes that didn’t exist 100 years ago, is that really what we the people wanted or just more BS the politicians decided upon without our consent?

I for one do not want the government being the sole decision makers over who gets out of jail and who does not, keep as much free enterprise involved in as much as we possibly can, if it needs to be fine tuned then fine tune it, but don’t give it to the government to control, because once they take freedoms away, there’s no getting them back, ever, and this topic covers a great deal of freedom.

Anonymous said...

I blogged about this report myself on and had very similar responses as many of your readers. When it is all done and said, I think the big take away here is:

a) NPR got it wrong. They didn't report on common practices in bail bonds nationwide, thought hey attempted to make it sound like it.

b) NPR tried to link the issue of jail over crowding to bail bonds when in truth, one has very little to do with the other. This is like saying Wal-Mart is responsible for traffic congestion. If we closed all the Wal-Marts, there would be fewer people driving on the street.


Jerry Watson said...

Unfortunately, Ms. Sullivan story is so extremely one-sided and contains so few actual facts on the bail bond industry; one can only assume no small degree of media bias.

The incredible thing is that there are legitimate, objective sources out there, including a large national study published by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics on the effectiveness of various forms of pretrial release. But did Ms. Sullivan use this source for her story? Apparently not. Additionally, the bail bond industry is filled with experienced, knowledgeable people that have years and years of expertise, but were they given fair and objective representation in the story? Apparently not. The family of insurance companies that I represent have been in the bail bond business for a combined total of over 175 years and I myself have over 40 years in the bail bond industry and would probably have been someone that Ms. Sullivan would have wanted to interview (click here for my CV…but did she or her research team ever contact me? No. That being the case, here are just a few facts Ms. Sullivan, or her staff, or someone at NPR would have learned had they bothered to ask the right people:

PART 1. There are not half a million people who “can’t make bail.” Retail sellers of bail have adjusted their pricing models to accommodate the financial difficulties arising from the current weak economy and attendant joblessness. The fact is that the ONLY people in pretrial detention today who can’t afford a commercial bail bond are (1) pure transients or (2) persons who are so extremely recalcitrant that they have burned every bridge with family and community. And these persons, if released, are almost certain to flee, and therefore no responsible judicial officer would allow them released in any case.
The other single exception is where, due to the seriousness of the crime, the bail is set so very high that no persons of average means can qualify, but the pretrial release agencies say they do not take these persons out anyway.

PART 2. Pre-trial release programs are not “dying out” because of “assault from the bail bonding industry.” They are failing because local government leaders are coming to understand that the performance of these taxpayer funded agencies is so poor as to constitute a public safety danger and also to thwart the orderly functioning of their justice system. The only independent credible research shows that far too many people so released from pretrial custody never return to court, (in some operations over 50%) AND the rate of recidivism among such fugitives is inordinately high.

PART 3. NPR’s assertions in this part are based upon their lack of understanding.
In short, there is definitely “another side” to the NPR story. And this other side is so easily available and so important to a fair appraisal of the U.S. Bail Bond System that one cannot help but wonder: Why didn’t they ask?

It becomes rather obvious that, for whatever reason, NPR has a design on the enervation of private sector bonding in favor of taxpayer funded government programs, and this even at the cost of additional crime victims. One can only wonder why.

NPR wants to blame the private sector bail bonding industry on people being in jail. It does not understand that some people in pretrial custody should be so detained. The 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee free release pending trial, but just that bail shall not be excessive. NPR doesn’t mention the part about ensuring the reappearance of the defendant as directed. Statistics show conclusively that releasing all persons charged merely upon their own promise to come back for trial does not work. If you want to know the facts…or shall I say the myths of Pretrial Service Agencies…visit and request a whitepaper.

Anonymous said...

Not just NPR, but Laura Sullivan.And All others she writes for. Here is a quick list of NPR poster boys from Lubbock,Levelland. Mr. Chew is a repeat offender. He has jumped bail, has 6 or more theft conviction. His drivers license is invalid, and revolked. He not uneducated from working with dad in the oil industry. (There Will Be Blood) Mr Chew needed a meal and warm place to sleep, with bs added. The other a Mr Currington has, Theft of motor veh, coviction of Federal fuel taxes,manufacture with intent to dis contsub. 3 convictions of poss contsub. Selling Meth within school area. theft of 2 trailers, forgery of comm inst, checks, B&E of 4 buildings-all separate convitions.
On parole TDOC twice with mandatory drug programs. Forgery,it goes on. These crimes I brought to notice on but after repeated postings on the site only no returned calls or relpies. If you do not agree with their veiws you never make it past the webmaster. I think they have 510c3 status? Ms. Sullivan "A like Swayed by 150$" is bunk. His family and sister live in the area an are tapped. Taxpayers fund this repeat offender. Ms. Sullivan and, should verify. Thanks for your valid opinions and blog. This criminal has attempted to steal from my family, so sorry this is a personal one.

Bondsmen said...

I think you can make the argument that either the judge or the bail bondsmen is soliciting which is a violation.
After reading your site,now it's all clear to me.Thank you!