Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Bail Fail: Tarrant collected less than 20% of forfeited bonds on absconders

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has been publishing an excellent series on bail bond practices in Tarrant County (replicating for Cowtown work done in Dallas by the Morning News):
Here's a typical tidbit from the first story:
critics question the effectiveness of the county's criminal justice system when forfeitures amounting to millions of dollars go uncollected.

"If the bondsman never has to pay a penalty, then what is the point of having bail bonds?" said Mark Holtschneider, executive vice president and general counsel for Lexington National, a Maryland-based bail bond surety company. "The forfeiture must be enforced."

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/04/01/3850904/millions-of-dollars-go-uncollected.html#storylink=cpy
Tarrant County collects less than 20% of forfeited bonds, repored the Startlegram: "In the past three years, as a consequence of legal machinations or mishaps such as losing track of cases, the county has collected less than $1 million on about $5 million in forfeited bail bonds for felony cases where defendants were missing for 270 days or more, records show."

The bail system in general is an anachronism that Grits believes should be reconsidered soup to nuts. The rest of the planet has abandoned the system, and even feds don't use private bail bondsmen anymore, for example, but rely on risk assessments performed by their own pretrial services staff. By substituting access to money for risk assessment, bail is responsible for errors at both extremes: Too often dangerous criminals are released when they can afford to post bond, while others who pose no threat or flight risk languish in jail awaiting trial because they cannot pay, with taxpayers picking up the tab. That's especially true when counties use one-size-fits-all bail schedules instead of tailoring bail to the defendant.

So I'm not a fan of the surety bond system, even when it works as it's intended. But if counties aren't even enforcing bond forfeitures when defendants abscond, there's no justification whatsoever for the "service" bail bondsmen provide. It becomes just another government giveaway to special interests, letting bond companies bleed criminal defendants for cash without holding them responsible for their clients' supervision.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/04/01/3850904/millions-of-dollars-go-uncollected.html#storylink=cpy

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