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." 


  1. You go, Jerry!!! Very nicely said.

  2. Actually, I do have a problem with the Federal pretrial release system. I do believe that bail is more effective than using federal tax dollars to administer pretrial release for federal inmates. And, if the federal government can perfect pretrial release, one would have to presume that with the right amount of funding and training the states could as well. I reject this idea!

    If federal pretrial release programs are paid for by tax dollars (which they are), then that is either right or wrong. If it is right, then you give up the main argument I embrace when considering the importance of commercial bail over pretrial release programs.

    It is one thing to prioritize the problems with pretrial release, ranking the state issues above federal ones. It is quite another to embrace such federal programs - all administered at taxpayer expense.

    And, I don't know about you, but I haven't written very many federal bonds lately. Thanks to my tax dollars, I am not necessary in the federal system. Let us hope this can be stopped at the state level - for taxpayers sake!

  3. Carter, thanks for the comment. You make good points founded on sound reasoning and logic.

    I was leaning more toward the practical: which is the best ground for our campaign, federal or state?

    I choose state/county "free bail" agencies for the obvious reason that their abysmal performance is so notorious plus the audience for our message is more accessible. There are many other reasons which for the sake of brevity I will not dicuss here.

    As for "embracing" unsecured release over secured release, in any jurisdiction, you and I are in full accord: private sector bonding trumps taxpayer funded "free bail" programs hands down.

    A bit of history, if I may: I was the person chosen to testify on behalf of our industry against the intiation of federal pretrial release when it was being considered by congress three decades ago. I feel just as strongly, philosophically, aginst it today as I did then.

    But thank you for helping me to see that my remarks needed some clarification as to purpose.

    Would like to know what others out there think.

    Jerryism #118

    "Government can take our business away from us faster than our competitors can."

  4. more to writing federal bonds: AIA writes them readily and fairly often. They do tend to be much larger bonds, but they are certainly writable.

    All the best.