Bail Burden Keeps US Jails Stuffed With Inmates

Now here's something lovely:
npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122725771

Leslie Chew spent his childhood working long days next to his father on the oil rigs of southern Texas. No school meant he never learned to read or write. Now in his early 40s, he's a handyman, often finding a place to sleep in the back of his old station wagon.

But he got by — until one night in December 2008 when the station wagon got cold, and he changed the course of his life.

"Well, I stole some blankets to try to stay warm," he says quietly. "I walked in and got them and turned around and walked right back out of the store. [The security guard] said, 'Excuse me, sir, come here. Are you planning to pay for these?' I said, 'No, sir. I don't have no money.' That's when he arrested me right then."

When I first spoke to Chew last summer, he'd been inside the Lubbock County jail since the night he was arrested: 185 days, more than six months.

Chew is like one of more than a half-million inmates sitting in America's jails — not because they're dangerous or a threat to society or because a judge thinks they will run. It's not even because they are guilty; they haven't been tried yet.

Anyway, I'm sure that there are a lot of people who won't have too too much sympathy for many of the people who are profiled in this story, but there is one particularly outrageous bit that is worth readin:

There is one other solution. It's a county-funded program called pretrial release. Nonviolent inmates are released under supervision, often with ankle bracelets, drug testing or counseling. It costs only a couple dollars a day, compared with the national average of $60 a day in jail.

Kelly Rowe, chief deputy of the Lubbock jail, says that pretrial release is an important option. In Lubbock, it operates out of the jail's intake area, where inmates are processed into the jail, and he takes me down there.

....

A block away from the jail, Steve Henderson runs Lubbock's parole and pretrial release program from a small, dark office. He says his shoestring budget can't afford an officer at the jail. He can't even afford to accept collect calls from inmates looking for pretrial help.

"Follow the money," Henderson says. "Usually whenever you've got questions of money, you follow the money and they'll tell you the reasons why some things operate."

He says the bail bondsmen don't want to see his program receive anything more than limited funding. The bondsmen "make money and they contribute their influence," Henderson says. "I would do more if we had the funding to do more."

It's not that Lubbock's bondsmen want Henderson's clients. They don't. Henderson's clients can't afford a bondsman's fees.

But Henderson says the bondsmen lobby to keep his program as small and unproductive as possible, so that no paying customers slip though — even if that means thousands of inmates like Raymond Howard and Leslie Chew wait in jail at taxpayer expense, because they never find the money to become paying customers.

....

Across the street from the Lubbock jail is a row of one-story offices with painted ads: Student discounts! Lubbock's #1 bonds!

Inside one of them, Lubbock Bail Bond, three young women work the phones and greet customers. This is one of the biggest bonding shops in town.

Here's how it works: You're arrested. A judge gives you $5,000 bail. But you don't have $5,000, so you pay Lubbock Bail Bond a nonrefundable fee — at least 10 percent of your bail — and you get out of jail.

"We put up the total amount; they pay us a premium. As long as they show up for court, we make money," says office manager Ken Herzog.

There are about a dozen bail bond companies in Lubbock, serving a rather small population of 250,000. Herzog says it's a cutthroat business that leaves no room for even a modest pretrial release program. As an example, he describes a time he was working to make bond for an inmate. A clerk at the courthouse told him that the inmate had been interviewed by pretrial release program workers who were working to get him out of jail.

"I said, 'Oh no, they ain't,' " Herzog says he told the clerk. "So I went to the judge that signed the motion for pretrial and told her what was up. They had no business even talking to this person. They pulled their bond, and I got the person out of jail."

I ask him if he is talking about Henderson from Lubbock's pretrial release office. "If he gets in my business, I told him, 'I do this for a living,' " Herzog says. "I said, 'You don't do that. We set this thing up.' I said 'I'll work with you any way I can, but you're not going to get in my business.' Well, he backed off."

It's unlikely Henderson had much choice. Henderson works for county officials. And county officials are elected.

"We take care of the ones who take care of us," Herzog says. "We don't want to pay anybody off, per se. We just want to support the people who are trying to help our business."

So, anyway, my outrage is this: there are pretrial release programs that do the same as the bail bond programs. They are no different than jail, they actually cost the county less money, and it makes it more possible for poor inmates (who have been arrested, not just charged with anything), and the bail bondsmen have basically bought the system. The third part of the article, here:

npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122725849&ps=rs

profiles the outrageous corruption even more.

So, anyway, my outrage is this: there are pretrial release programs that do the same as the bail bond programs. They are no different than jail, they actually cost the county less money, and it makes it more possible for poor inmates (who have been arrested, not just charged with anything), and the bail bondsmen have basically bought the system. The third part of the article, here:

npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122725849&ps=rs

profiles the outrageous corruption even more. This is absolutely wrong. Plus, for inmates not deemed flight risks to be unable to afford bail is, uh, what's the word I'm looking for, starts with an uncon, ends with a stitutional.

Your statement about bail programs "being no different than jail" is naive & idiotic! You have obviously never spent time in jail.

Having been in jail & prison, 99++++% of us deserved our fate. *Allowing criminals to avoid the inconvenience of jail & prison is not doing them a favor, it is only enabling their bad behavior!*

i didn't accept my own guilt, even being able to pay bail & stay free for 18 months, until i had been in jail & prison for another 6 months.

*FINALLY, THE REALITY OF MY SIN OVERCAME ME & I GAVE MY LIFE TO JESUS CHRIST, LAYING IN MY PRISON BUNK AT 4:44 AM, MARCH 19TH, 2006.
*

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!

mark

This article shows me once more why I don’t believe much of what I read. The slant and the bias is absolutely over-whelming. Here are some examples of spin and omission.

“It costs a quarter of every county tax dollar to run our jail system in Broward County,” Gulick says. “It’s the largest single expense to any county taxpayer.”

This statement has no relevance because it does not say how much of this expenditure, if any could be saved by an increased pre-trial release program. There is nothing about what percentage would be eligible for pre-trial release.

The daily cost of the pre-trial program is taken from Gulick, who runs the program. The daily cost of jail is also taken from Gulick? This is balanced reporting?

Finally, the graph (which, by the way starts at 3000 and not zero to increase the dramatic effect) is on jail population. What is noticeably missing in this report is the crime rate, the absconding rate and the recitivism rate. In other words, who many of the pre-trial releasees, commit more crimes and how many skip town and do not show up for trial.

I really do not object to a limited pre-trial release program, as long as it is limited to non-violent misdemeanors who are first time offenders. However, too many criminals take extra time on the outside to commit extra crime.

First of all, that’s a mistake. I meant to type that pre-trial release programs are no different than the bail bond programs. That change shte meaning significantly, doesn’t it?

Having been in jail & prison, 99++++% of us deserved our fate. Allowing criminals to avoid the inconvenience of jail & prison is not doing them a favor, it is only enabling their bad behavior!

That’s absolutely irrelevant. Pre-trial detainees have not been found guilty of a crime. You can’t treat them as criminals, because they are defendants. If we’re going to treat pre-trial detainees as criminals, why do we even have trials?

And aren’t you bothered by the bail bonds part of it? If you’re going to call me an idiot over a typo, I’m going to call you dishonest and accuse you of not reading the article.

i didn’t accept my own guilt, even being able to pay bail & stay free for 18 months, until i had been in jail & prison for another 6 months.

**FINALLY, THE REALITY OF MY SIN OVERCAME ME & I GAVE MY LIFE TO JESUS CHRIST, LAYING IN MY PRISON BUNK AT 4:44 AM, MARCH 19TH, 2006.
**
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!

mark

Your conversion story, while important, is not relevant to the blatant corruption practiced by bail bondsmen.

Having been arrested, I can tell you for certain that there are prisoners inside who no more deserve to be there than any so-called "normal" person. I DON'T agree that 99% of prisoners deserve to be in prison. Our justice system is corrupt and utterly dependent on money and fame, it is not about fairness and transparency.
I was lucky - my parents are wealthy and helped me buy my way out of jail. I feel sorry for the poor schmucks that I saw inside. They had no choice.

Shouldnt the NPR headline have been "

“People commiting crimes keeps US Jails stuffed with inmates?”

[quote="estesbob, post:8, topic:184083"]
Shouldnt the NPR headline have been "

People commiting crimes keeps US Jails stuffed with inmates?"

[/quote]

But they aren't convicted of anything yet! If we're certain that people arrested are guilty, why do they get a trial?

The point of my frustration here is that the Justice System is willing to let these people out on bail, they have a program to do it, and its being suppressed so that the bail bondsmen can get their money. Did anyone read the article? The bail bondsmen are basically buying and selling county commissioners to keep these pretrial release programs shut down, and it isn't for public safety reasons; they'll be glad to get people out of the jails, but only if they pay money to them.

[quote="Lujack, post:9, topic:184083"]
But they aren't convicted of anything yet! If we're certain that people arrested are guilty, why do they get a trial?

[/quote]

Why is it that so many Conservatives tend to believe that Arrested = Guilty and convicted? :hmmm:

It is disgusting to see how the system has been perverted to keep poor non-violent suspects in jail when they could be released without risk to their appearance in court. Bail bondsmen have powerful lobbyists to oppose such programs or to minimize their use.

I think the point is that what is keeping jails so full is the crime rate. No, a person is innocent until proven guilty, but a person who is injured ore killed in an assault is still injured or dead. A person whose home is burglarized is still missing property. It is crime that results in a large jail population. Pre-trial release is only one means of reducing the impact of large jail populations, but make no mistake that it is crime that is the primary precipitating factor.

I think the number of people who are non-violent first offenders is not as large as many are led to believe. I think one would be hard-pressed to allow for pre-trial release of repeat offenders. Another thing that this article misses is that the better solution is a speedier trial process.

We should not overlook the fact that bail bondsmen are, in effect, adjuncts or auxiliaries to law enforcement. A fair number of bonded and unbonded accused "skip". Bondsmen, who have their own money at stake, go after them, are often more effective in recapturing "skippers" than law enforcement personnel are. Indeed, they have greater powers in some ways, no limits to their "jurisdiction" being one of them.

Most judges I know will readily let accused out on their own recognizance (promise to appear) if the charges are not too serious and the accused has firm roots within the community; that is, a lot to lose by running off. Also, they will accept property bonds by family members or others.

I realize conditions may vary from place to place. But the truth is, I suspect everywhere, that law enforcement and monitoring programs are totally inadequate to deal with "skippers". Bail bondsmen, by and large, add to the numbers of law enforcement, and it costs taxpayers nothing for them to do it. That, I suspect, and not "buying the system" is what keeps the bail bond business going.

[quote="Ridgerunner, post:12, topic:184083"]
We should not overlook the fact that bail bondsmen are, in effect, adjuncts or auxiliaries to law enforcement. A fair number of bonded and unbonded accused "skip". Bondsmen, who have their own money at stake, go after them, are often more effective in recapturing "skippers" than law enforcement personnel are. Indeed, they have greater powers in some ways, no limits to their "jurisdiction" being one of them.

[/quote]

Evidence for this?

Most judges I know will readily let accused out on their own recognizance (promise to appear) if the charges are not too serious and the accused has firm roots within the community; that is, a lot to lose by running off. Also, they will accept property bonds by family members or others.

But then how do you explain those nonviolent offenders who do not get out on bail, or the pressure exerted by the bail bondsmen on judges not to let out the accused on pretrial release, forcing them to go through the bail bondsmen?

I realize conditions may vary from place to place. But the truth is, I suspect everywhere, that law enforcement and monitoring programs are totally inadequate to deal with "skippers". Bail bondsmen, by and large, add to the numbers of law enforcement, and it costs taxpayers nothing for them to do it. That, I suspect, and not "buying the system" is what keeps the bail bond business going.

It does cost taxpayers something for them to do it, as evidenced by the article: bail bondsmen work to limit pretrial release programs that don't get them business, thus more people who would be out on bail are in jail, and need to be provided for by the state or county or town or whatever it may be.

[quote="Ridgerunner, post:12, topic:184083"]

I realize conditions may vary from place to place. But the truth is, I suspect everywhere, that law enforcement and monitoring programs are totally inadequate to deal with "skippers".

[/quote]

Boy do they ever vary! The whole idea of bondmen influencing local officials would be considered laughable here. I am trying to understand what things would be like in an area where they do have influence, but it is not something I have ever dealt with.

I agree that monitoring programs are inadequate to prevent skipping. However, that is not an issue in implementing a pre-release program. Eligibility should never be extended to anyone to whom skipping would be a major threat. At least this is my understanding of the program in the article. Those who are facing probation are unlikely to skip. If they do, then they either get caught again or they don't.

[quote="Lujack, post:13, topic:184083"]
Evidence for this? ** I can only speak to what I, personally know about. I have known a significant number of bondsmen, judges and lawyers for many years. Being a bondsman is a very rough business, and I have seen them go broke from people "skipping". I have known of some of them getting beaten up or shot when they tried to go bring in a "skip". You have to realize they are almost always dealing with real criminals, and sometimes "nonviolent offenders" (like meth lab operators) can be extremely dangerous people. Some "nonviolent offenders" are more dangerous than "violent offenders". **

But then how do you explain those nonviolent offenders who do not get out on bail, or the pressure exerted by the bail bondsmen on judges not to let out the accused on pretrial release, forcing them to go through the bail bondsmen? ** Never, ever, ever have I seen bondsmen have any influence on a judge. Bondsmen are dependent on the good will of judges,who can, at will, disqualify them from being bondsmen in their courts. I have known of judges who did just that when a bondsman did something they didn't like. They can destroy a bondsman's business in a heartbeat. **

It does cost taxpayers something for them to do it, as evidenced by the article: bail bondsmen work to limit pretrial release programs that don't get them business, thus more people who would be out on bail are in jail, and need to be provided for by the state or county or town or whatever it may be.

[/quote]

Bondsmen cost taxpayers nothing. On the contrary, they save the public expense of sending law enforcement out after people who "skip". They also keep court appearance schedules and make sure defendants don't "forget" to show up at various junctures. I am sure pretrial release programs require the judge's consent in each case. By my observation, judges very frequently release people on their own recognizance if they seem to be the sort who will show up. One of the pressures judges feel to do that is that the jails will only hold so many people, and the counties only have so many people working in them. The big pressure is actually from the sheriffs on the judges. If a jail is getting unmanageably full, the sheriff will go to the judge and ask for more "own recognizance" releases. Usually the judges will comply, even if it means the defendant is "at risk" for skipping. It's a give-and-take, because sheriffs don't actually like to have people in jail at all. It costs them money from their budgets, takes up the time of personnel, and prisoners do all kinds of stupid and malicious things, and have to be watched constantly. If something happens, they could be liable. They really hate it. Sheriffs are elected officials and have a lot more political power and influence on judges than bondsmen do. Bondsmen are more or less "at the service" of sheriffs, because sheriffs can prefer this bondsman over that one when a bondable arrestee comes in. Sheriffs can pressure bondsmen to bond out risky defendants, and do.

Bondsmen really are a "free" extension of law enforcement and the court system. As I said, I have known a number of them and, while they're usually pretty "hard case" guys, they do perform a service that would cost the public a lot of money if they didn't do it. Bondsmen have been around for a very long time. Sometimes reinventing the wheel seems like a good idea only until the cost and unserviceability of the "new" wheel is fully felt.

It's funny though. One of the most successful "bondsmen" I knew was a rather smallish, rather pretty lady, who couldn't wrestle a kitten to the ground. She did, however, have a keen eye for "skippers" and was very innovative in getting the liabilities covered. She was all brains and no brawn. But she did a pretty good job of it, and made a decent, if modest, living doing it. The sheriffs liked her because she was good at predicting risks and somehow was good at getting defendants to name accomplices, contacts, organizations, etc. Could have been a psychologist, I guess, but she was a bondsman.

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