Bail Reform | What’s the Dilemma?

No one ever anticipates themselves or their loved ones going to jail, but when something does occur to put them behind bars most people know they are likely eligible for bail. What many people don’t recognize, however, is that there is more than one way of doing this. They could, of course, deposit the entire bail amount up front – which would be a daunting burden – or they might choose to use a bail bond agency and accomplish the same goal for a small percentage of the face amount of their bail.  It’s important to realize, though, that this relatively small distinction isn’t the only financial implication involved. 

The Bail System’s Financial Effects

When a person is released on bail, it is their responsibility to make it to all of their upcoming court dates. It should be noted, though, that they’re not always trusted to do so. A state’s pretrial services agency is given the duty to track defendants released on bail to ensure that they uphold their end of the bail agreement. It’s important to point out that these state agencies come into play when someone pays their full bail amount to the state, as opposed to when a bail bond agency is used. Unfortunately, this can be a costly endeavor.

Washington, D.C. has what is considered to be one of the best pretrial services agencies in the country, yet they still spend around $59 million to monitor 4,400 defendants released on bail. This means that it costs $13,409 for each individual to be supervised. The sad fact of the matter, though, is that this money all comes from the taxpayers. Even more disheartening is the fact that there are thousands of counties across America, with metropolitan areas having upwards of 20,000 defendants to monitor. This can take a huge chunk out of a state or local budget at four to five times the cost of D.C.’s program, while leaning on already overburdened local law enforcement to track down those who fail to appear.

A Tested and Successful Alternative

Fortunately, there’s already a tried and true alternative. The bail bond agency system already provides those charged with a crime a beneficial alternative to paying a high bail amount – which could be kept by the state if they miss even one court date. With some bail amounts in America exceeding $1 million, paying a percentage is highly preferable.

Importantly, when a person is released through a bail bond agency, the local taxpayers also see a benefit. When a bail bond agency secures someone’s release, they become responsible with ensuring the defendant makes it back to court. This takes the entire burden off of the state and its taxpayers. The success rate of Washington D.C.’s pretrial services agency, arguably the best in the nation, is only 88 percent. On the other hand, when it comes to bail bond agencies, this number jumps to 98%!

Not only does the bail bond system take a financial burden off of taxpayers, and a resources burden off of local authorities, it increases the likelihood that people will live up to their responsibilities.

Are Lawmakers Just Stirring The Pot?

Since the private bail bond industry costs taxpayers zero, and ensures that defendants show up to court, it would seem as if lawmakers would leave it alone. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening. Instead, those favoring “bail reform” have decided that more and more money should be pumped into pretrial service programs. Even though these programs have proven less effective than private industry bail bond agencies, politicians somehow reason that simply throwing more money at the problem will magically fix it.

The simple fact of the matter is that criminal justice solutions shouldn’t be based on ideology; they should be based on facts. And those facts are that private bail bond agencies have continuously proven to be more successful than state and local resources, which are consistently faced with resource shortfalls. In the end, pumping additional taxpayer funds into pretrial service programs, while simultaneously attacking the private bail bond industry, will do nothing more than ensure that certain violent criminals are out on the streets unmonitored.

In a democracy, concerned government agencies step in or are created when there is not a private enterprise solution that works; when citizens are neglected or shortchanged, or when the public must be protected. In the case of efficient and effective monitoring of defendants, none of those boxes is checked. If the industry is to be improved, lawmakers should support the roles of the U.S. Marshal Service and bail bond agencies in continuing to hold the constitutional right of bail to its original intent and purpose: to prevent excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment – not to solve the issue of overcrowded jails.

Branch Office
  • Open 24 Hours