Friday, August 28, 2015
Bail Bonds and Finding the Good: What goes right in the criminal justice system everyday
If you are in the bail industry, like me, you probably read all the articles that are published in the media about our industry. Unfortunately, most of these articles are about negative things. For example, a couple weeks ago, a fugitive recovery agent in Arizona, broke into the wrong house looking for a fugitive defendant. To makes things worse, the house belonged to the Phoenix Chief of Police. This story hit every paper around the country. Now don’t get me wrong, this situation is horrible and should have never happened, but what people need to realize is that this one story shouldn’t define the entire industry. Because on August 4th 2015, the same day this was happening, approximately 14,000 other bail agents were doing a whole heck of a lot of good for the criminal justice system. These 14,000 agents were ensuring that over 90,000 defendants around the country show up for court. Unfortunately, you don’t see a lot of news stories about that.
Everyday bail agents all over the country are guaranteeing that the wheels of our criminal justice system continue to turn. As the most effective form of pretrial release, bail agents in 46 out of the 50 states across the country, ensure the appearance of those accused of a crime in court. Why is this important? Because when the defendant shows up for trial, the system gets a chance to work. The defendant gets a chance to tell their story. The people get a chance to tell their story. The potential victim(s) gets a chance at justice. And most importantly, the defendant isn’t out in the community committing additional crimes.
Unfortunately, the media misses the opportunity to share the reality of this misunderstood business. Instead, they gravitate towards promoting the dark, swarthy, crooked images that have been created and promoted by Hollywood, reality television and crime novelists over the years to sell more tickets, ratings and books. In addition to getting the image wrong, the majority of stories about the bail industry get the facts wrong too. From stories about one-off incidents like the one in Arizona to more mainstream politically motivated stories about “bail reform” the bail industry is rarely portrayed in a factual way. For example, when describing why jails are crowded, these stories claim that defendants are stuck in jail because they can’t afford a $3000 bond. What they don’t explain is that a $3000 bond would only require that the defendant come up with $300 to be released. Additionally, in today’s competitive bail market, with payment plans widely available, that defendant has the ability to be released for even less than that as long as they agree to a payment schedule. Also, what these stories never mention are the countless studies that have been conducted around the topic of pretrial release that all prove that it is the most effective way to ensure a defendant’s appearance in court. Not just one study, but dozens of studies, conducted by government entities, educational institutions and private parties, that all come to the same conclusion, bail works. The only problem is that the effectiveness of bail doesn’t align with the “soft on crime”. “hug a thug” political narrative driving the bail reform movement today. So instead of reading about the truth and the facts, we get the glorified drama and negative spin.
What many people don’t realize is that, love them or hate them, bail agents play an essential and effective role in the criminal justice system. At no cost to taxpayers, they hold defendants accountable and help ensure justice is done for all parties involved. Yes there might be incidents that portray the industry as “bad”, but the reality is that there is a lot more “good” done in one day by bail agents than you would ever think.
Imagine if we judged all professions in the world like we do the bail bond industry, just by the negative stories we see in the media. Is it fair to say all teachers sleep with their students because a couple teachers did so? Probably not. Is it fair to say all professional athletes hit their wives because one did? Probably not. I think you get where I am going with this.
Bail is something that not a lot of people fully understand or have any experience with, but it is an industry that most will describe in a negative way based on what they see in the movies and read in the media. It is time that people stop rushing to judgement when they hear the word “bail.” Instead, they should make the effort to fully understand the role, the people and the effectiveness of the industry and base their judgement on the facts. Because if people do take the time to understand this industry, I am confident that they will see how much the good does outweigh the bad and how important bail is to maintaining accountability and fairness in the American criminal justice system.
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