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."
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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."