Bail Reform: Why the Discussion?

Gavel and moneyBeing put in jail is never something a person expects, but it does occur. When this happens, the individual is most likely eligible for bail, which will release them. However, most people don’t know that there are a few different ways to go about paying for their bail. Of course, it also largely depends on the total amount that is set forth by the judge. The individual can pay the bail in full, which can be a stretch if it is a considerable amount. Another option is to use a bail bond agency in which they can pay a small percentage. There are other financial implications related to bail about which people should know.

A person is always responsible to appear at all of their upcoming court dates once they are released on bail. Of course, they are not always trusted to appear in spite of the requirement. Pre-trial services from a state agency are given to track a defendant after he or she is released on bail to check whether they adhere to the terms of the bail agreement. State agencies usually act when the individual has paid their bail in full rather than used a bail bond agency.

Using a pre-trial services agency is not cheap. For instance, there is one in Washington, D.C. that is considered one of the best in the country. It spends close to $59 million to watch over 4,400 defendants who are out on bail. In other words, it costs $13,409 for each person to be supervised. The money sadly comes from the taxpayers. Taking that into consideration, there are thousands more such agencies across the country. Large chunks of state or local budgets are lost as a result of having to pay these agencies for their services.

Luckily, there is an alternative to state pre-trial agencies that has been proven to work. If a defendant misses court dates or even a single court date, the bail bond agency system ensures that the state can be paid back the remaining money of the individual’s bond amount. This is because even a percentage of some bail amounts, which can be even greater than $1 million, can be quite high.

In addition, taxpayers will benefit when an individual is released through a bail bond agency. Once a bail bond agency ensures a defendant’s release, the agency itself is responsible for getting the individual back in court on their court dates. As a result, the burden is released from taxpayers and from the state. The top pre-trial services agency in Washington, D.C. has a success rate of only 88 percent in terms of getting the defendant in court on their court dates. However, bail bond agencies have a success rate of 98 percent.

It seems, however, as though lawmakers are stirring the pot. Bail bond agencies cost no money to taxpayers and ensure that defendants show up in court on their scheduled court dates. In spite of this, some lawmakers favor bail reform and believe that more money should go toward pre-trial service programs. Politicians seem to believe that paying more money toward these agencies will fix them even though they have been proven to be less effective.

As a result, the taxpayers are forced to pay more money toward programs that don’t always work. Even worse, criminals end up back on the street unmonitored, which puts the public at risk.

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