Bail Bond Grant Program
QUALIFICATION - When the court finds that a secured surety bond is necessary to ensure the appearance of the defendant, the protection of victims and witnesses, public safety and the integrity of the court process including the right of the defendant to bail as constitutionally provided. A defendant who is financially unable to pay a bond that was set at first appearance, may file a motion with the court requesting a hearing to prove indigence. The determination as to whether a defendant be indigent or whether a person is unable to afford a bail bond shall be at the discretion of the judge.
NON-QUALIFYING DEFENDANTS - When clear and convincing evidence exist that no conditions of release will reasonably assure a defendants appearance or the safety of the community. A bond amount that exceeds the cap limit a government agency is willing to grant. Defendants who have been arrested while released on a case pending. Some jurisdictions may deny certain charges.
STAKEHOLDER - Defendants must have a relative or close friend make written declaration they have secured bond with a licensed bail bondsman who has provided power of attorney to the court for the full bond amount. In addition attest in good faith the defendant will appear to all court hearings and does not pose a danger to the community.
FUNDING - Governments cost to detain a defendant ranges from $90 - $150 a day and the average time to adjudicate case is between 6 -18 months. A government agency paying a nominal amount for a bonding company to bear significant risk and management responsibility will save money and safeguard justice. Example: $100 daily detention cost + 90 days in jail = $9000 vs. providing a one time premium to a bail company to safeguard the integrity of the court process.
PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP - Is a partnership between a government agency and a private bail bond company to provide bail bond service for some non-violent indigent defendants. This bail bond grant program can ensure indigent defendants arrested for low-level crimes are not simply released and instead are held accountable to appear in court by professional bail bond companies.
The current bail reform movement in the United States divides two sides that have the same goal to protect public safety, ensure court appearance and pretrial release. Civil rights activist who want to help people who cannot afford bond underestimate the experience and professionalism the bail industry provides to pretrial release. Their solution to release people without sufficient surety undermines public safety and judicial proceedings. Having a public-private partnership between the government and a bail company is a third alternative that will ensure appearance, public safety and right to pretrial release. Bail bond grants given to indigent defendants arrested for low level crimes will improve the release process for the few who do not have the means, while still maintaining the defendant is accountable to appear in fair prosecution time.
Bail bond companies responsibly protect public safety by having responsible family attest the person in jail is ready to be released. Many times family do not post bond until the defendant has detoxed and made promise to make life changes. Releasing everyone on their own personal recognizance dangerously does nothing to deter the behavior that put the person in jail. Secondly bail bond companies assure the person appears in court in fair prosecution time. Meaning victims, witnesses and officers are attainable to appear in court within reasonable time of the alleged violation date. When Judges set bond in an amount that will necessary protect the community and assure appearance the system will work. When bonds are set excessive or too low the system fails. Finding the balance is not difficult when you consider all the factors in determining conditions of release.
Pre-trial services can play an important role in helping defendants. Currently the role to supervise and report how the defendant is progressing does nothing to ensure public safety or court appearance. Unfortunately when the defendant isn't capable of being responsible because of an addiction or other reasons the intended result is the opposite. This over-supervising is causing more people to violate conditions of release and failure to appear. People will not show up to pay and fail a drug test that is going to send them immediately to jail. This behavior causes pre-trial services to request a warrant for failing to comply then the defendant knowing they have a warrant fail to appear. Pre-trial services then does nothing but make a report. In this situation it is bail companies that make effort to arrest the defendant. The court and the community is better served helping these people rehabilitate through other means. Pretrial services role should become a means for defendants to find help for addiction, counseling, education or job search.
We hope attorneys, judges, pre-trial service officers, bail bondsmen, lawmakers and anyone interested in bettering pre-trial release consider our ideas and share theres.
IMPROVE RELEASE IMPROVE APPEARANCE IMPROVE PUBLIC SAFETY
BAIL AMOUNT - Bail must not be arbitrary and the conditions of release need to be individualized. Judges need to consider all available risk factors and make a written finding justifying conditions of release. The bail bond amount set by the Judge is the most important factor in effectively assuring someone returns to Court and does not commit new crimes.
SECURED SURETY BONDS - Bail bond companies safeguard the courts role adjudicating a case in fair prosecution time. Surety bonds are not meant to be incentivizing but instead to provide the court the maximum advantage of ensuring someone appears to all court hearings. The leverage of having family as stakeholders is encouragement for defendants to appear in court and is also a way to ensure responsible people are attesting the person is not a danger if released. Ultimately it is the sureties lawful power to arrest and sensible efforts that make certain a person appears in court.
DENYING BAIL - Bail should be denied when there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant will not come back to court, and is a danger to the community. This must be carefully limited and fair.
NOT REQUIRING A BAIL BOND - Low risk defendants who do not pose a flight risk or danger to the community should be released on their own recognizance.
FAULTY RISK ASSESSMENT TOOLS - The judicial community are blindly trusting risk assessment tools accuracy without being able to audit the proprietary algorithm in which the results come from. As an irresponsible solution to end pretrial detention for indigent defendants the tools humanly bias design is optimized to be a means to release 90% of defendants arrested. Risk assessment instrument proponents falsely argue the results are evidence based yet do not allow any third party to audit its accuracy. Defendants who have a history of failure to appear and are arrested for rape and homicide are being scored as low risk and courts are being advised to release them. Risk assessment instruments do not consider many risk factors or circumstances that skew the results. For example RAI do not consider out of state convictions, mental illness, drug addiction, current charges, or if a person has been in prison for 15 years. A study by ProPublica provided evidence that the risk assessment instrument they audited was only accurate 60% of the time and that there was a racial bias. These unjust, unaccountable and non-transparent results should not decide conditions of release in booking or be a factor in influencing a Judges consideration when determining conditions of release at any hearing.
BACKGROUND INVESTIGATION - Judges need to have accurate information regarding the factors the court consider in determining conditions of release. courts need staff that are able to provide this information to a judge at custody arraignments.
PRETRIAL SERVICES - Pre-trial officers role should be dedicated to diversionary programs that help defendants find counseling/treatment and not sanction defendants who do not comply. As a advocate for treatment pre-trial officers can work with defendants who suffer from mental illness and drug abuse.
SPEEDY TRIALS - Our Constitution provides the right to a speedy trial. Many times people are not being afforded this right. The district attorney and public defenders office must have enough staff to make this happen.
MAKING BETTER PRETRIAL RELEASE DECISIONS
UNSECURED BONDS - An unsecured bond is when a defendant is released on his/her written promise to appear at all Court proceedings AND to pay the Court the full bond amount in the event he/she fails to appear. Almost all Jurisdictions do not collect or have procedure to collect and defendants do not have assets to pay a bond forfeiture. The Bureau of Justice Statistics did a special report in November 2007 that found defendants released on a unsecured bond are more likely "to have a bench warrant issued because they failed to appear in court" and have "a greater probability of being rearrested while on pretrial release."
CASH BONDS PAID TO THE COURT (10% OR FULL AMOUNT) - Cash bonds can be a problem in that the person paying the Court cannot arrest the defendant if they fail to appear in court. The payee is also unfamiliar with forfeiture law and will often lose the bond money. In addition no person or entity will be actively seeking to assure a defendant who fails to appear is surrendered to the court. Warrants will remain active for long periods of time and the District attorney will have a more difficult time prosecuting case.
BAIL BOND SCHEDULE - Cynthia A. Mamalian, Ph.D. says this about bond schedules “They are designed to afford persons arrested without a warrant their constitutional right to have bail set during the period between a person’s arrest and his or her initial appearance before a judicial officer for the pretrial release hearing.” Many bail reformist argue against bond schedules because they only consider a defendants charge. Their unconstitutional solution is to deny bail until a judge sets conditions of release at a hearing. A third-alternative is to have a questioner where a jailor using no personal discretion answers questions about criminal history using available court records. The questions consider other risk factors and classify the score as low, moderate and high risk. With the results have a schedule that has 3 secured bond amounts assigned to each risk. For an example click here