In my last article on the "Three Strikes And You're Out Pretrial Justice Institute!" I wrote about their first miss: their claim that commercial bail should be done away with because it violates the presumption of innocence doctrine. We very clearly showed the fallacy of their claim, thereby demonstrating that their first attempt to justify the basis of their existence ( to use our federal tax money to get rid of commercial bail ), so that was strike one. Our objective is to show that they cannot come up with one single sound reason why commercial bail should be abolished. And since getting that done is what they are all about ( and why they get our tax dollars ), if after their three main attempts they still fail, shouldn't the government stop giving them our money? I mean, if they are going to get our money and use it to put us out of business, and if they cannot show why we should not be left in business, then should they keep getting our money? We think not. If they swing three times and miss every time, should they not be out of the game? We think so.
This article then is about how they missed in their second attempt: their claim that pretrial services agencies perform just as well, if not better, than commercial bail in getting defendants back to court. Their argument of course is that if they have a better appearance rate, then who needs commercial bail?
Well, let's examine that proposition. Do they outperform our industry in getting persons to court? Not if the numbers mean anything they don't. Every major study ever done on that subject shows that fully financially secured bail ( our kind ) dramatically outperforms unsecured bail ( their kind ).
The largest and most extensive of these studies has been the one which used to be done every two years by the Federal Bureau Of Justice Statistics ( BJS ) which is an arm of the U.S. Department Of Justice. BJS studied, among other things, the appearance rates of fifty five thousand state case felons from the country's seventy five most populous urban counties. They did this every two years for a long time. And every two years when their findings were published the answer was always the same. Secured release wins again.
Guess what happened. After PJI started getting our tax money from the Bureau Of Justice Assistance ( BJA ), which is yet another wing of the U.S. Justice Department, and PJI saw that we were using these BJS numbers to show everybody that commercial bail skunked pretrial service agencies when it comes to getting defendants to court, they went whining to the head of BJA. Can't you just hear it: "Hey! You guys are giving us this tax money and we are trying to put small business bail bond women and men out of operation with it and another of your departments is giving them ammunition to show that they do a better job than the local taxpayer funded free bail pretrial service agencies. How are we gonna win if that keeps up?"
You will not believe this. Well, considering, maybe you will. BJS, which had been saying for years and years that secured pretrial releases outperformed, big time, unsecured releases in getting persons to court, now issued a "bulletin", and you have probably already figured out what it said. It said that these study reports were not intended to indicate that one release method was any better than another. And now those studies are not being done anymore. I mean, can you give us a break here for goodness sake? It’s bizarre, really. The bulletin says that the research is for the benefit of researchers, students, bail agents, judges, public servants, etc. but you cannot say what the research shows. But that's OK. The study reports are out there, and the numbers show what the numbers show. And we keep using them.
Here's one they can't stifle. Just last year a study was done of the Houston, Texas pretrial services agency and an amazing thing was discovered. That agency was supervising for reappearance about nine thousand cases where almost exactly half of them had court ordered surety bonds in addition to being assigned to pretrial services. The other half did not have a surety bond. The very same controls were employed on every case. Those cases were reviewed and it was learned that the appearance rate for those on surety bond was twice as good ( 100 % better ) than the unsecured cases. You talk about the perfect Petrie dish for studying appearance rate comparisons. This was it, and we won again. Hands down.
There are other studies from very credible scholars, and they all come out same way. Commercial bail carries the day. Every single time. Call my office, or email your request, and we will be pleased to send you these proofs.
There is a line in an old Mary Chapin Carpenter song that says: "The cards may lie but the numbers never do." And commercial bail has the numbers. Always.
So they swing and miss again. First strike: presumption of innocence. Second strike: this one, the court appearance performance rate question. And they are still getting our tax money? Yep, but the third strike is coming up.
Next article: the third strike. You will have it soon.
*If you would like to receive a printed or an electronic version of the entire blog series, please email us at email@example.com.
Jerry Watson, Chief Legal Officer of AIA, blogging about the legislative side of the bail bond industry. AIA (Allegheny Casualty, International Fidelity and Associated Bond) is the largest and oldest bail bond insurance company in the nation.
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- Jerry Watson serves as Chief Legal Officer to AIA, Senior Vice-President and Legal Counsel, Bail, at IFIC. He is the immediate past Chairman of the Private Enterprise Board of Directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – America’s largest bi-partisan state legislator member organization on whose board he has represented the commercial bail industry for the past 15 years. He has also served as General Counsel of the American Bail Coalition since its founding and is a member of the Bail Advisory Council of the Surety and Fidelity Association of America (SFAA). His undergraduate and law degrees are from Baylor University and he is a graduate of the National College of Criminal Defense Attorneys and Public Defenders. He has testified as an expert on bail in various state and federal cases, among them being the country’s largest bail related damage suits. In Jerry’s 42 years in the bail industry, always as an attorney, he has represented local retail agents, general agencies, insurance companies and insurance companies’ trade associations before state and federal courts and regulatory agencies.
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