If You Want To Reform the Criminal Justice System Why Not Ask a Bondsman?

September 27, 2018
by Eric Granof


It is a Wednesday morning and I just finished reading another report, this time from Los Angeles County, providing bail reform recommendations to the LA County Supervisors. As usual, the report was full of the typical bail reform talking points and recommendations. The “next steps” portion of the report outlined best pretrial practices around the country (none of which involved bail). It did however involve the hiring of many high-priced consultants and attending lots of workshops with objective advocacy groups like the Pretrial Justice Institute and the Mac Arthur Foundation (two organizations that will surely provide a non-biased approach to their recommendations…NOT). The final recommendations…create a “robust” pretrial services agency to solve the problem. Of course, in order to do this you must first develop a pilot program (which doesn’t have a bail option), fund it with tax dollars, and then wait for the jails to magically empty and the criminals to be cured of their evil deeds.

It is at this point that I am really confused about these recommendations. Los Angeles County already has a pretrial services agency to handle the needs of the indigent and those with special circumstances. If there is a problem in the jails and there are too many indigent defendants sitting there, isn’t that an issue with the current pretrial system. If the bail industry, as they say, only helps people with money, and pretrial services is supposed to handle the indigent, then why is the bail industry being scrutinized for there being poor people in jail. It seems to me that the reform that needs to happen isn’t with bail, but rather with the current government funded pretrial services agencies that seem to be failing at their one goal…make sure that the indigent aren’t languishing away in jail for being poor.

That point aside, something else really bothers me about this report, and pretty much every other report that these bail reform advocates produce. At no time ever do these studies address or study the effectiveness of bail. At no time ever do these reports talk about their extensive interviews with actual bondsmen and what it is they do. All these reports do is plainly and unequivocally state without proof or evidence that bail agents are evil, greedy and the system is unfair. They assign all the ills of the criminal justice system to the bail industry all to justify their plans to eliminate it and replace it with their own system.

Maybe one day a researcher will have the insight and courage to approach bail reform in a more honest and effective manner. Maybe one day, someone will actually look at the problems in our criminal justice system in a way that actually solves them. Just saying that the bail industry is bad, that jails are crowded, and the system is unfair to the poor and people of color because of bail does nothing to solve the problem. Jails are crowded because people commit crimes. It is just that simple. If you want to lower the populations in the jails you have two options. Option 1: Recategorize the crimes people are committing and make them NOT crimes (Bail Reform’s Approach). Option 2: Find out why people are committing crimes in the first place and try to solve that problem. Based on these two options, which do you think is the best way to lower jail populations and keep the public safe?

If our legislators truly want to fix the criminal justice system, they need to involve all parties that have knowledge, insight and experience. Pointing the finger at the bail industry and saying that eliminating bail will solve all the problems, is not a real solution. It is an emotional and ideological argument that has no bearing on the reality of the system. Think about it, bail is the most common way people get out of jail. Let’s go and eliminate it…and what do you think happens. Either your jails fill up because no one can get out fast enough…or you let everyone out including the bad guys and hope that they show up for court and don’t hurt someone in the meantime. There really is no good outcome if you eliminate bail.

Does the system need reform? Absolutely. Do the indigent need special assistance from pretrial services? Yes, no bail agent will ever argue with that. Does eliminating the bail industry solve the problem? NO. It shouldn’t be so hard to reform the criminal justice system in a way that keeps our communities safe while balancing the rights and safety of both the accused and the victim. It really isn’t rocket science. Is the bail system perfect? No it isn’t, but it does work as intended, and does a pretty good job. But then again, I didn’t have to do a lot of research around that question.. all I had to do was ask a bondsmen. Maybe our decision makers should do the same.

Eric Granof is the Vice President of Corporate Communications for AIA Surety.

Meet our Team of Bondsman

September 8, 2018
by Connie Allbritton

We have several very experienced bondsman working for Big Red Bail Bonds. Most of us are family. I have been a bondsman for about 24 years. I am the Treasurer for the Oklahoma Bondsman Association. I have 2 sons, a daughter-in-law, 2 nieces and a cousin who are bondsman that work for us. We also have several agents who post for us in other counties.

Kim Ligons is my niece. She has worked here for over 6 years. She runs the Norman office. She is also a Licensed Bail Enforcement Agent. She loves bounty hunting. When she isn’t working you will find her at one of her daughters softball games or her sons T-ball games.

Lacey Griffith is Kim’s baby sister and also works in the Norman office. She is the youngest bondsman we have and she is also a licensed BE agent. She doesn’t love it as much as her sister though. She loves making things and playing softball. She is always working on some craft project or hanging out with her niece and nephews. If she’s not at one of her games she is at one of their ballgames.

Dustin Henry is my son. He runs our McClain County Office in Purcell. He owned and operated his own business in Chickasha before he became a bondsman. He often brings his 1 year old daughter to work with him. She is very popular at the courthouse. He has been a bondsman for about 5 years and is also a licensed BE Agent.

Emily Henry is Dustin’s wife and she is also an RN so she doesn’t have as much time for writing bonds as she did. We miss having her around. Dustin misses her organizing his office. Having a 1 year old and a full time job doesn’t leave her much free time.

Chris Allbritton also my son, writes bonds in Grady County which is where he lives. He is also a full time Firefighter in Yukon. He is an avid hunter and fisherman and the Father of a 21 month old boy. Who is as cute as he can be. He is also a licensed BE Agent.

Terry Griffith is a former Norman High School Football Coach and became a bondsman when he retired. He has spent most of the last 1 1/2 years running the family farm in Calumet.

Chuck Siess is my husband and our newest bondsman. He is going to retire from Tinker AFB early next year and will divide his time between bail bonds, his landlord duties and his woodworking projects.


You can see their pictures on the “Meet the team” page on our website.

Google and Koch Industries Team Up to Deny Access to Constitutional Right to Bail

 

In a surprise announcement yesterday, Google and Koch Industries teamed up to help social engineers in their pursuit to end the 8th Amendment Right to Bail in the United States.

Google said it would no longer allow ads from bail bond services on its various platforms. Koch Industries subsequently announced that it was joining with Google to effect changes to the bail system in the U.S. with the clear intention of seeking to eliminate it altogether.

When criminal defendants and their support networks cannot afford to get out of jail, they enlist the aid of bail bonding agents to get them out of jail for a small fee – a fee set and regulated by the state. Bail is a fundamental constitutional right in America, and bail agents were created to stop usurious lending practices while allowing persons who couldn’t afford the entire bail get out of jail.

As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows, and when Google and Koch Industries team up to deny First Amendment rights of businesses to reach consumers in need, it should be cause for concern – not celebration.
For Google’s part, they have stated that they want to stop industries that “profit off of mass incarceration.” Of course, they forget that the bail industry only benefits from decarceration. Every time an inmate stays in jail due to lack of access to bail, there is no benefit to bail companies. Bail companies are engaged in the decarceration business – not the incarceration business.

“Google’s new policy is a call to action for all those in the private sector who profit off of mass incarceration.” – Gina Clayton, executive director of the Essie Justice Group (Google statement). In Google’s case, they have undoubtedly profited millions of dollars on advertising from bail companies attempting to reach those in need, but now that it is politically popular, they will stop taking such ad revenue. Ultimately, these efforts only serve to make a political statement – all while hurting consumers and families in need of bail services.

Every day, when people have friends, family and relatives who are arrested and sent to jail, they will Google how to get their friends and family out of jail. Google now has a new answer for them: don’t Google it because we don’t believe that you should be able to seek out a service that allows you to get your friends or family out of jail and we don’t want people who can help you to have access to you.

Google makes this conclusion because they worry about “opaque financing offers,” which is further indicia of their complete lack of understanding of the bail industry—finance charges and interest are not allowed on bail payment plans—they are interest free and tailored to meet the clients financial means. Luckily, Google will continue to allow for ads for drug companies that produce opioids, liquor and cigarette companies, and unsecured loan companies. As it turns out, usury is only usury if Google says so.

For Koch Industries, they support a risk assessment algorithm in deciding whether people get out of jail rather than judges elected by the people. Of course, that movement has been criticized as creating e-carceration, an electronic version of incarceration that makes it even worse for criminal defendants pending trial by requiring onerous conditions for those released – ultimately setting them up for failure. These algorithms have also been widely criticized as being biased against minority defendants. The Koch’s also apparently want to change “the bail code,” which, much like Google, is reflective of their complete lack of understanding of the bail system in this country. There is no such “bail code.”
It is shameful that Google would deny people access to bail services, which are heavily regulated by state insurance commissioners around the country in 46 states. For years, Google has taken money from bail companies, like all other legal businesses, to let the marketplace help consumers of services find and research the providers of such services that they need.

Navigating the criminal justice process can be daunting for those arrested and their families. At 3:00 am, we are certain that the court clerks are not answering calls for questions regarding a loved ones arrest, however, bail agencies are. Google and Koch seek to deny access to that by trammeling on an entire private industry by inserting their own version of distorted social justice.

The right to bail is a fundamental constitutional right, and Google and their misguided co-fellow billionaires appear more interested in their own social engineering than allowing the average American to exercise their basic Eighth Amendment right to bail.

Apparently, Google and Koch Industries feel they can disregard the Bill of Rights and pander to other interests if it benefits the bottom line and serves their social agenda.

The Bill of Rights in this Country is fundamental, and Koch Industries and Google’s combined $112 Billion dollar net worth can attempt to re-engineer society in their own mold all they want, but we know they have absolutely no chance to re-write the federal and state constitutions with policies that are inconsistent with the rule of law and the Bill of Rights.

Rhetoric on California bail reform fails to address problems

April 9, 2018

by GLORIA MITCHELL

We heard a lot about bail reform this year in California with the companion bills, Assembly Bill 42 and Senate Bill 10 (The California Money Bail Reform Act of 2017). The rush to judgment and pressure to change the system in a swift and dramatic fashion based on national class-warfare rhetoric obscures the true picture of the problems … and real solutions.

While I wish we had the type of iron-fisted political clout, which we are accused of wielding, the truth is that the bail industry did not single-handedly stop the legislation in California. Yes, we were against it, but the real opposition came from groups like the Alliance of California Judges, California State Association of Counties, the Association of Elected District Attorneys, the Los Angeles County district attorney, the Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys Association, Crime Victims United and other victims groups, and a wide swath of law enforcement associations and unions, among many others.

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Related: Bail reform makes California safer for all

Adding to that was a significant outcry from the public who, we discovered, have had enough with the recent trend of soft-on-crime policies including Proposition 47 and Proposition 57.

Targeting and criticizing the bail industry as the key problem in the criminal justice system, is not only misleading but prevents us from truly understanding the real problems. It blinds us and prevents us from listening to constructive ideas and solutions that may actually work. Solutions surrounding bail schedules, market imbalances, and charge stacking. Solutions that the bail industry has brought to the table on multiple occasions but were ignored or rejected.

Why? Because the bail industry is being described as the problem. Decision makers believe that the bail industry only cares about its profits and nothing else. Well, it just isn’t true. We want a workable solution to California’s criminal justice challenges just like everyone else.

What many people don’t understand is that without bail, few in California could afford release at all. In this way, the bail industry helps the poor. Bail is always labeled as an evil “for-profit” business in the criminal justice system. The reality is that bail industry’s revenues pale in comparison to every other business that services the criminal justice system. This includes attorneys, GPS monitoring companies, and drug testing providers to name a few.

In addition, the effectiveness of what we do is constantly and purposely misrepresented by our opposition. Our industry returns defendants back to court from all over the country, and all over the world. And we do this at zero cost to the state or counties in which we operate. If bail is eliminated, the estimated cost to California will be over $3.8 billion. How much sense does that make?

The reason why bail is so effective is because we operate under a strong financial incentive. In one of the most comprehensive studies ever done on the subject of bail (Helland & Tabarrok, University of Chicago Journal of Law and Economics, 2004), the authors concluded that bail agents significantly reduce the rates of fugitives from justice and are the “true long arm of the law.”

To eliminate such an effective solution makes no sense. While reform is sometimes necessary, the goal should not be to take a broad sword to eliminate an entire industry.

What many proponents of bail reform don’t realize is that California’s bail system already has mechanisms in place to deal with many of their issues. If someone in jail is truly indigent, many California counties already have a pretrial services agency to assist them. If someone is not a risk to the community, judges can already release that person on their own recognizance.

The question really shouldn’t be how can we scrap the current system and replace it, but rather, the question should be how can we better manage and improve the current system.

The bail industry has been an essential and valuable part of the criminal justice system in California for decades. To simply think it should be scrapped and replaced is both shortsighted and dangerous.

The right to bail is something that is guaranteed both in the United States and California Constitutions. We hope that California will do the right thing when it comes to holding people accountable and protecting its citizens.

It is what every elected official has vowed to do, and what every Californian family deserves.

Mitchell is president, California Bail Agents Association. Website: cbaa.com.

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