Tuesday, November 2, 2010


The voters have spoken, and the state referendum created by Americans For The Preservation Of Bail was defeated. The ballot measure which was supposed to save the bail bond industry in Colorado was rejected today at the polls.

The commercial bail bond industry now has to hope that the claim that private sector bonding would be lost in Colorado without a prop 102 win was just hype to solicit support for the measure.

Obviously the question confronting the industry today is: what next? Where do we go now that state judges, legislators, opinion leaders, and the attorney general as well as local county government officials, policymakers and sheriffs have been seriously alienated?

It is respectfully suggested that this is the time for the two step process of an assessment of damage done and the making of reparations; the mending of fences, if you will.

But how can this be most effectively done? The answer seems to be that a serious and professional education program needs to be designed whereby those whose endorsement of our industry is needed (unfortunately the very persons who have been aggravated this election season) can become convinced that we can be valuable partners in the effective administration of justice in the State of Colorado. While we know that this proposition is sound, they certainly do not given today's climate.

An effective vehicle for delivering this message would be a vibrant state association of bail agents. Such an endeavor not just in effective representation in the upcoming legislative sunset process but also in a well conceived education focused public relations campaign might just save the day. It certainly works in some other states.

Would the majority of the bail bond agents in Colorado come together in such a manner? One can only hope so. Absent such a collaborative effort, maybe the future of commercial bail in the state is in fact in jeopardy, especially now that the industry's attempt to force itself upon government leaders has failed.

The truth is, if commercial bail does not flourish and prosper in Colorado it will not be the fault of elected officials, law enforcement or judges. It will be because the industry itself refuses to take the necessary steps to keep itself out of harm’s way.

"We have met the enemy, and he is us."
  Pogo Possum

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bail Bonds and Pretrial Release: To Fight or Not to Fight

This could be one of the most important questions to be answered by the bail bond industry today.

State and county government officials, judges and policymakers are finding it increasingly necessary to decide what to do about the local taxpayer funded “Free Bail Bond Stores”  (pretrial service agencies operating in hundreds of counties across the country).

The Pretrial Justice Institute (the “front” for the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies) is lobbying counties to create a new pretrial service agency or expand the one they already have.

Local sheriffs, county commissioners, judges, state legislators, state attorney generals and others must decide whether to make greater use of the more effective commercial bail bonding system or grant more support to the less effective, even dangerous, “Free Bail Bonding Stores.”

So, here’s the question: how does the bail bond industry go about persuading these persons to decide in favor of the private sector bonding system?

The choices are limited.  These are only two: fight them or educate them.  Like most options, each one has its plus-points and its out-points.

For example: fighting these decision makers by trying to force them to do our bidding creates enormous ill-will and a “get your back” mentality.  And remember, these persons are in a position of continuing influence over many facets of bail bonding.

On the other hands, educating them makes for long term friendly working relations.  In other words, instead of carrying a grudge, these persons become friendly toward the promotion of our own survival.

My opinion?  Developing friendly relations through effectively communicating our message seems to carry better promise.  And realize: we do have the best message by far.  The statistics related to public safely point directly at commercial bonding.

I do admit to having been influenced in favor of this approach. early on  My mentor who taught me the bail business said to me many years ago: “When our welfare is in someone else's hands, be a lover, not a fighter.”

What say you?  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bail Bonds: Thank you Pretrial Justice Institute

In your September 23, 2010 publication, you wrote about the years of efforts by rightly aggrieved citizens to bring transparency to the travesty visited upon unwitting taxpayers as their hard earned dollars have been used to fund local county “free bail bond” stores (read Pretrial Release Agencies).

Of course, since you are an apologist and major advocate of those malfunctioning operations, you did not intend it as a kindness to me when you wrote:

“The commercial bail bond industry’s national agenda has been manifested mostly through the work of Jerry Watson, Chief Legal Officer of AIA, past head of the American Bail Coalition, and past Chairman of ALEC.”

That I could be recognized, especially by those who wholly fail to appreciate the true values that commercial bail bonding brings to the nation’s criminal justice systems, as a person who tries to help shine the light on those uninformed souls is a great honor – no doubt my greatest ever. So thank you again, and please know that I will always be indebted to you for identifying me as a loyal soldier in the fight against egregious misuse of taxpayer funding.

Jerryism #51
I guess Lyndon was wrong, you can shine a cow pattie.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bail Bonds: Pretrial Services and Surety Bail as a Team?

Currently the pretrial inmate is the sought after “customer” of the private sector commercial bail writer and the county taxpayer funded pretrial services agency.

But might there be a “set” of needs which could best be served if both providers were in the picture?  If emotion is put aside and only the evidence is considered, the answer appears to be a resounding: “Yes”.

How would that work?  Actually it is pretty simple.  Defendants can have special needs, and it is in the best interests of that person’s well being and society’s desire that those needs be addressed that the problem be identified and treated.  But despite this situation, that person returning to court so the criminal case can be disposed of is also important.

As it turns out, neither pretrial release staff nor the bail writer are equipped to meet both of these requirements.  But if these separate functions; getting the special need identified and treated on the one hand and getting the person to court on the other are divided up, both the defendant and society win.  Let pretrial services deal with the identity and treatment of special needs which they do best, and let the bail writers get the defendant to court, which they do best.

Bail writers are not experts in addressing the special needs a defendant may have, but it is also proven that pretrial services does a poor job of getting people to court.  So, let each provider do what they do best.

Can this work?  Absolutely.  It has been very successful in Houston, Texas where courts routinely order the involvement of both professions.  Defendants have their needs addressed while also making their required court appearances.

The pretrial services interviewer advises the court as to whether or not the defendant needs professional attention, and the court orders accordingly while also ordering the defendant released on a commercial bail bond.  It works.

The system only breaks down when pretrial services insists on being the sole provider.  If they simply do what they do best and allow the professional bail agent to do what she or he does best, everybody wins – including the defendant, the county, the pretrial services providers and the private sector.

What’s wrong with that?

Jerryism #101
Occam’s razor: “The simplest explanation is usually the best one.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bail Bonds: Oregon Legislators Get The Truth About Commercial Bail

Last Wednesday members of the Joint Judiciary Committee heard arguments on whether or not Oregon should install commercial bail bonding in that state.  Click on the following link to hear the complete audio file of this important bail bond industry testimony.

They had an opportunity to get the straight scoop when I, on behalf of The American Bail Coalition, rebutted the sour old tripe that had been disseminated by opponents to commercial bail. You know their drill: “The counties will lose money if commercial bail is allowed to write in Oregon.”

This was good, though, as it provided an opportunity to set the record straight on at least four ways the state and its political subdivisions would benefit economically under private sector bail bonding:

1. The opening of new businesses to purvey the product which, combined with their numerous employees, would add to the local and state tax bases,

2. Savings on county jail costs via release of inmates much faster than the average 15 days the pretrial service offices take before arranging a release,

3. Revenue realized by the counties from the payment of bail bond forfeitures, and

4. The premium taxes that would be paid on every bail bond posted.

In addition, the information from The United States Department of Justice was shared showing how over an eight year span judges across the nation have moved away from own recognizance releases by 17 %, away from deposit bail by almost 20% and toward commercial bail by 20%. The reasons why were also provided:

1. The obvious economic advantages,

2. The affordability of the product, and

3. The proven public safety enhancements.

If policy makers desire these benefits for their state, as a provider, commercial bail has no peer.

I'd like to quote the wise words of Edmund Burke, "A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation."

Jerryism #118
If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bail Beats Pretrial Services

The word is out! It cannot be controverted nor can it legitimately be denied.

What happened? The most important comparison study ever performed to show once and for all: who comes to court better. Persons on bail or persons released unsecured through a pretrial service agency?

For 22 years The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics has been saying commercial bail wins, but recently the liberal pretrial services advocates whined to the current defendant-friendly administration in Washington about how those reports were making them look bad. So now the administration says we shouldn’t pay any attention to all those Bureau of Justice Statistics findings.

Ok, so forget all that. A new study just out proves the superiority of commercial bail once and for all. One of the nation’s largest pretrial service agencies, the one in Houston, Texas, own records for 2006, 2007 and 2008 were fully reviewed and analyzed and it was discovered that commercial bail does a two to one better job for getting persons to court.

For each of the three years reviewed approximately 4,500 defendants on bail and 4,500 on unsecured release were monitored the same way by pretrial services agency staff. For each of those three years non-bail defendants had a 100% worse failure to appear rate. That’s right! Only half as many defendants on bail failed to appear as compared to the pretrial service agency defendants with no bail bond. What better proof could one ask for to show that commercial bail outperforms pretrial service agencies in getting defendants to court?

So is the issue about pretrial services now put fully to rest?

If you would like to receive a copy of the reports please email communications@aiasurety.com.

Honorary Jerryism of the Day:

“You can’t shine a cow pattie.” Lyndon Johnson

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pretrial Services Agencies Paranoia

Here's the latest example of the public taxpayer funded "free bail bond stores" trying to stay unexposed. They just refused to let The American Bail Coalition's Executive Director attend their National Association Of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA) upcoming convention.

It was at one such convention that I did attend where I heard one of their leaders announce to their largest gathering: "We must be free of these vampire bail bondsmen."

What they obviously do not want a private sector bail bond person hearing is details of  their continued plan for bail's demise - fully in keeping with their Operating Standard Number Five: "There should be no compensated surety".

The one thing they fear the most? The light being shined upon them.

Ironic isn't it? "Fund us with your tax dollars, but don't look at us."

Your thoughts?

Jerryism #256

Hell hath no fury like NAPSA scorned.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bail Bond Lobby Wants Safer Streets

If you read the article Gerie Crawford: Bail bond lobby wants to stick it to taxpayers (Gainsville Sun.com) authored by a self-styled “concerned citizen of Alachua County” arguing against HB 445 and SB 782 you might have been struck, as I was, with how this “concerned citizen” could be so extensively knowledgeable on the subject.

Let me say up front that I am a member of America’s private sector commercial bail bonding industry. And you, Gerie, are doing the old shuck and jive. You are cleverly pointing reader’s attention away from the fact that pretrial release is about one thing and one thing only: getting the accused back to court.

HB 445 and SB 782, concern themselves with addressing the problem of persons released through Florida’s taxpayer funded “free bail store” not making their court date. That and the fact that these fugitives are highly recidivistic. These two factors combine to establish that Florida taxpayers are unknowingly funding county agencies that create crime in their communities. How about responsible use of taxpayer monies, safer neighborhoods and more responsible behavior of persons charged with crimes. That’s all the legislation is about.

The simple fact is that when a defendant is released from pretrial custody on a bail bond the company that wrote the bond will get the defendant to court or pay the bond amount, but with the free bail stores a high percentage of defendants don’t come back and nobody pays. I am not a career criminal, but if I were I would move to Florida because I would know that when I get in trouble I will get a free bail bond, I won’t go to court and nobody will come after me and nobody will have to pay anything. How sweet it is.

The new legislation is about public safety.

Do not fall for the slick side step. Tell your legislator to pass the new Pretrial Release Bill.

I welcome your thoughts or comments on this subject.

Jerryism #78
Who was that masked "concerned citizen?"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bail Bonds and Pretrial Release: When are the Facts not the Facts

The Pretrial Service Agency people have finally, despite their cover-ups and dismal performance, found an ally in the ultra-liberal Obama Justice Department.

For twenty-two years the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (a division within the U.S. Justice Department) has published several bail indsutry research reports comparing the performance of unsecured pretrial release (PTS) to secured release (commercial bail bonding). Every single time secured release dramatically outperformed unsecured release.

The private sector bail bond industry has used this information to show how Pretrial Service Agencies (aka local "free bail" shops) is a public safety danger and a terrible waste of taxpayer money. And the campaign is being successful. So successful, in fact, that it has driven the Pretrial Service Agency folks to take drastic measures by whining to Obama’s Justice Department that BJS information is hurting them and should therefore be retracted.

Consider this statement from the Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, State Court Processing Statistics, 1990-2004; “Compared to release on recognizance, defendants on financial release were more likely to make all scheduled court appearances.”

Compare that to this remark from a Data Advisory that was just issued from Bureau of Justice Statistics: “Evaluative statements about the effectiveness of a particular program in preventing pretrial misconduct may be misleading.”

What happened? Can anyone honestly imagine that pressure from above was not put upon the Bureau of Justics Statistics to issue this “Data Advisory” whereby they are made to contradict their own findings?

If we are surprised, we shouldn’t be. The socialist philosophy of Pretrial Service Agencies that the individual is not responsible for his behavior because society has failed him fits hand-in-glove with the “social justice” mantra of the current administration.

Pretrial Service Agencies will not give its own statistics or reports showing its dismal failure to appearance rate performance, and it cannot stand the truth as revealed in the Bureau of Justice Statistics studies. So it is forced to resort to deceitfulness.

Fortunately for them, they have a cover-up ally in the current administration. But that won’t last – elections come around on a regular basis.  Stay tuned for more on this extremely important topic.

Your thoughts on the subject?

Jerryism # 162
“What we need is less government in business and more business in government.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pretrial Release Programs - A Clarification on Federal vs. State...Good vs. Bad

On behalf of myself and my long time colleague Brian Nairin, I want to write this blog as a sort of clarification to an earlier bail bond industry blog we wrote on Pretrial Service Agencies. The blog was titled, “Pretrial Service Agencies looking to Buy Some Facts.” In that blog we claimed that Pretrial Services Agencies through the development of their new “Assessment Tool” were “buying facts” to support their existence. While this blog received a very large amount of traffic and comments, there was one comment that stood out. It was from a representative of the Federal Pretrial Service Program in Washington D.C. This individual was troubled by the blog because it appeared to him to be making claims against the Federal Pretrial Service Agency that he felt were not true

In order to provide some clarification on the matter, I recently had a conference call with this individual to hear his concerns and to better communicate ours. After this conversation, I think both parties had a better understanding of each other and the intent of the “Assessment tool” that was referred to earlier. According to our contact, this Assessment tool is something that will only be utilized at the Federal Level and will not be used by State or Local Pretrial Service Agencies. In fact, our contact was very clear that his group was only concerned at the Federal level and did not have any connection or concern regarding what happens at the State or Local level in regard to Pretrial Programs.

It is very important for me to let everyone out there know that we do not have the issues with the Federal Pretrial Service Agency that we have with local agencies at the State or County level. In fact, we think Federal Pretrial Release does a good job at keeping failure to appear rates low and recidivism down. If only the States were able to run a similarly effective and efficient machine, but the evidence is that they do not.

The issue we have is that whatever the federal agency does, especially in matters around the criminal justice system, the states pretty much always try to follow. While there is no intent now to ever implement this assessment tool at the state level, we know that eventually the states will try and replicate the tool with fewer resources and expertise and ultimately with fewer results.

30 years ago the same thing happened when Pretrial Service Agencies were created at the federal level. The fear the bail bond industry had was that this program would be copied at the state level without the same expertise and success. Additionally, it was felt (remember this is 30 years ago) that these programs would morph into “get out of jail free” programs for a much wider criteria of defendant than the program was originally designed for at the Federal level. And to be honest, that is exactly what has happened and why today the entire bail bond industry is having to battle these ineffective state and local bastardized pretrial programs that are doing nothing but increasing the crime rates in our neighborhoods and costing local citizens valuable tax dollars.

Jerryism #17
"Crime doesn't pay.  Unless you get out of jail through a Pretrial Service Agency." 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bail Bonds: How the New Healthcare Plan Will Impact a Bail Agent's Small Business

With all the recent press on government sponsored pretrial release programs and the legislative battles bail bond agents are fighting across the country, it is easy to forget about other national legislative issues. Issues that much like Pretrial Service Agencies could have serious negative impacts on a bail agents’ business just the same, if not worse. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I am talking about the historic healthcare vote that occurred yesterday on Capital Hill. No matter what side of the fence you are on when it comes to healthcare, one thing is certain, things will never be the same again.

So, it is now done. The United States House and Senate have finally passed a Universal Healthcare Bill (or Obamacare as some refer to it). So what is next? As a small business owner, like most bail bond agents are, the passing of this bill will have significant impact to you, your family and your business. Here are some things we think you need to know:
  • You and your employees will be required to buy health insurance or pay penalties up to $2,250 per family, per year.
  • If you do have insurance and your policy costs $10,200 per year you will pay a 40% excise tax
  • If you and your wife have worked long enough and hard enough that your total combined annual income is $250,000, your Medicare payroll taxes will basically double.
It is truly unfortunate to sit back and watch elected officials make promises to get into office and then break those promises once they are there. I remember hearing about how this new administration was going to be a champion of small business…I am not sure I see that…but we will have to wait and see…probably from the lobby of an overcrowded doctors office, but nonetheless we will have to wait.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Jerryism # 237
"Some folks would rather climb a tree to tell a lie then stand on the ground and tell the truth."
Sign up to receive updates of Jerry's blog or click here to sign up for issues of AIA's leading bail bond industry newsletter, AIA Insight.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bail Bond Victory in Virginia? I Say Yes!

Watching my long time friend and colleague Brian Nairin have all the fun with his bail bond industry blog over the past few months, I couldn’t take it anymore and had to throw my hat in the ring. After more than 40 years in the bail bond industry, I think I might have an opinion or two about the legislative or legal happenings in our business…and for those of you who know me; you know that I am never short on opinions.

Since Brian commented on the Virginia situation in his recent blog posting, I thought that I would build upon some of his comments. I definitely wanted to congratulate all of the bail bond agents in Virginia who worked so hard to move HB 728 through the House and into the Senate. While HB 728 eventually didn’t make it through the Senate, there are some very, very positive outcomes to this story…outcomes that maybe some don’t realize are actually pretty historic for the bail bond industry in their own right.

First, through their actions, Virginia bail bond agents literally decimated the Pretrial Service Agency statewide budget by a reduction of over 15 million dollars. Second, they passed a bill giving bail agents the right to view criminal histories thus making their underwriting decisions sounder. And lastly, you could say this was a victory as well: Virginia bail agents perfectly positioned HB 728 for a very good chance of passage next year.

As Brian mentioned in his blog, education has to be a key part of the next phase of efforts. Identifying key influencers such as Sheriffs and other law enforcement groups and educating them on the role the bail bond industry plays in getting defendants to court and keeping the number of crime victims down is absolutely imperative.

We will continue to provide our support to Virginia’s bail bond agents as they keep this fight alive. I look forward to your comments.

Jerryism #104

"The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap."