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.”