Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pretrial Service Agencies and Commercial Bail Bonding: Why the Continuing Conflict?

Since the posting of the last blog in my recent series on how The Pretrial Justice Institute cannot justify their taxpayer-funded existence, I have had folks asking me why the two industries cannot get along somehow. I will try and answer that question here.

Over fifteen years ago, commercial bail arranged for a meeting with leaders from the pretrial service agencies domain to explore a peaceful co-existence where they would do the things they do best (interview for special needs inmates and advise the court of those needs and then monitor each case to make sure that those needs are being met) and we, at the same time, do the things that we do best (assess for flight risk, underwrite the defendant's bail accordingly and monitor for reappearances), but alas; it was all for nothing.  We were soundly rebuffed (they wanted nothing to do with it), and I still have the letter to prove it.

We, the private sector bail bond industry, have floated the notion again, but again it was all to no avail.

Why is this? Why can there not be a working relationship whereby the defendant's special needs, the county's economic interests and the community's public safety requirements all be met and met much better than they are today?

For many years I thought it all had to do with the fact that both sides are competing for the same customer: the new inmate in the local jail.  That is, I thought that they wanted this person for their customer and so did we and that this made us commercial competitors, natural enemies if you will.  It seemed to make sense, my theory.  The more of these inmates they could beat us to, the more secure was their agency, and therefore, the more secure their own individual job futures.  And it appeared to be pretty much the same with us - the more of those new inmates we could snare, the better off we would be.

I was wrong.  I wish I had not been because the real reason for the conflict between our two industries is far more entrenched and difficult to deal with than our merely vying for the same customer.

The real reason why they are East and we are West, and never the twain shall meet, is because of an inherent philosophical conflict; a fundamental difference of opinion about why those inmates got arrested in the first place. The National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies (NAPSA) and its "front", The Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), and their respective leaders believe that the only reason anyone is jailed is because we, the society at large, have failed that person. If we had been all that we should have been to that defendant, he never would have been arrested.  His incarceration is therefore not his fault, it is ours.

So, if his being in pretrial custody is our fault and not his own, then how right is it for us to insist that he arrange for his release pending trial? How dare we ask him to pay for his release when we caused him to be in custody? It is only right that we, the taxpayer, should pay for his release. Viewed from this perspective, taxpayer funded pretrial release agency free bail stores make a lot of sense. You have to give the defendant a free bond, because after all, it's your responsibility anyway.  Don't blame the defendant, the devil made him do it.  And the devil, in their view, is you: the non-criminal taxpaying citizen.

If that is what they believe, then what do we believe? We believe just the opposite.  We believe that the defendant, who has been arrested upon probable cause of having committed a crime, has to take some responsibility for his actions.  They believe that it is morally reprehensible on our part to insist upon this.  We believe that insisting upon persons taking responsibility for their behavior prevents future misconduct, advances justice and supports crime victims.

So there you have it; the real reason why NAPSA and PJI and their ilk are so incapable of ever working with our industry for the benefit of all.  And that is also the real reason why they are so dedicated to abolishing our private sector businesses.

What is your opinion on this? I'd be curious to know.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pretrial Justice Institute - Strike Three: YOU'RE OUT!

This is the final installment in the “Three Strikes, You’re Out!” series of articles about the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI).

Just to recap: PJI is an organization funded with our federal tax dollars, and its mission is the eradication of commercial bail bonds from all State and County criminal justice systems.

The series is based upon this proposition:  if they cannot justify their mission by showing that commercial bail should in fact be eliminated, then they should not continue receiving federal funding.

We went on to say that the “three strikes rule” should apply: if they try three times to justify their mission and they fail every time then it should be “game over” for them.

In previous articles we showed how they failed in their first and second attempts.

This final article is about their third swing and miss:  their attempt to sell local officials on the idea that they have a superior flight risk analysis tool; “evidenced based practices.”  They claim that this “tool” of theirs enables them to accurately qualify the flight risk potential of any inmate, thereby making commercial bail unnecessary.

Now, if you believe that, I have some beautiful beach-front property in Arizona I’d like to sell you.

You may recall what I said my old law school professor told us about how to overcome the opposition: “If you’ve got the law, beat em with the law.  If you don’t have the law but you have the facts, beat em with the facts.  And if you don’t have the law or the facts, confuse em.”

Well, that’s exactly what they are up to with this snake oil pitch about evidence based practices; they’re just trying to confuse people.  They cannot make their case with law or facts (as shown in the earlier articles), so in desperation they trot out this silliness about “evidence based practices.”

Just what is it, anyway?  The term was originally borrowed from the medical profession.  Doctors were encouraged to use diagnostic techniques that had been proven by excessive research to be the most reliable.

As it applies to pretrial service programs, it means that a local jurisdiction should create a “flight risk assessment instrument” to be applied as inmates are interviewed for release qualification.  This is supposed to reduce the amount of personal intuition used in qualifying a defendant as a flight risk.

This presupposes that bail underwriting can be reduced to a science, something any good bail bond person knows to be a joke.  Bail underwriting, we in the profession know, is more an art than a science.

In short: their “tool” doesn’t work.  It is a spoof and a weak attempt by pretrial service agency advocates to claim relevance and potential usefulness.

The truth is, government run bail stores do an inferior job to private sector bail bond women and men who not only outperform their taxpayer funded competitors, but who provide their valuable service at no cost to the county.

In fact, if you really want to see a true “evidence based practice” just look at commercial bail.  All the “evidence” (the many major research studies on the subject) proves that private sector bail is the better approach.  Now that’s an evidence based practice.

So, they miss again.  They missed on the law and they missed on the facts and now we see they missed when they tried to confuse everybody with this “evidence based practice” hogwash.

Third strike.  That’s it.  PJI should be sent to the dugout.  They should no longer be allowed to use our tax dollars in their attempt to put us out of business.

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