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Ohio Bail Agents Get Some Good News

Posted October 10, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Deposit Bail, Meeting Recaps, and Post Conviction Bonds  - 0 Comments

Bail agents of The Buckeye State met in Columbus on September 22-24 for the 6th Annual Meeting of the Ohio Bail Agents Association. The OBAA has been quietly trying to improve conditions for commercial bail in that state.
 
Senator Bill Seitz was on hand to speak about his 309 page Sentence Bill (HB 86) which became effective September 27. The bill includes an amendment from the bail industry which provides for the clerk to mail a notice to the surety within 15 days after the declaration of the forfeiture. The show cause period has also been increased from a minimum of 20 days to 45 days.
 
Senator Seitz is an enthusiastic and loyal supporter of commercial bail and the role it plays in the criminal justice system. Senator Seitz fought hard to include the bail amendment to HB 86. He also committed to incorporating a post conviction bond in legislation he will introduce next year that he calls the Son of HB 86.
 
Franklin County Municipal Clerk of Court Lori Tyack was also an invited speaker. After hearing her position on deposit bail, the Ohio bail industry can now count Ms. Tyack as a friend in addition to Senator Seitz and Judge Nancy Russo of Cuyahoga County. Ms. Tyack is one of only a handful of Court Clerks in Ohio who are elected as opposed to appointed. She is also the President of the Ohio Clerk’s Association and has invited OBAA members to attend their October meeting and have a booth in their vendor section.
 
Finally, there was some discussion on the suit brought against an Ohio court clerk who had denied a bondsman from posting a bail bond on a 10% deposit. The Ohio Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the bail agent and directed the court clerk to accept the bond.
 
The use of deposit bail as an option to a fully secured bail bond is spreading in Ohio. The courts are mesmerized by the cash and quickly forget about the purpose of bail. It will take a continued effort by the bail industry to bring the courts back around to reality.

Bail Bonds in Ohio - Looking Ahead

Posted July 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA under Bail Bond Insurance, Meeting Recaps, and Post Conviction Bonds  - 0 Comments

The Ohio Bail Agents Association held their third quarter meeting in Columbus this past Saturday.  The discussion centered on the upcoming legislative season and the needs of the commercial bail bond industry in Ohio.

Similar to Indiana, Ohio courts are moving more and more toward the, revenue inspired, 10% bond option with many courts accepting to accept only 10% deposits; no bail bonds.  This short sighted strategy by some Ohio courts has placed a strain on the criminal justice system through increased failure to appear warrants, reduced conviction rates and the disenfranchisement of victims of crime.

The State of Ohio is staring at an ugly $8 billion dollar budget shortfall in 2011 and must find ways to administer huge cuts in overhead.  One of the areas being looked at is the state’s criminal justice system.  Senator Bill Seitz (R) is the sponsor of SB 22, and a member of the Judiciary – Criminal Justice Senate Committee. SB 22 is a reform bill that addresses sentencing reform, GPS monitoring of inmates released early from prison and recommends releasing early, prisoners who have served 85% of their prison term.

Opportunity for Post Conviction Bond

The early release of prisoners is an area where the bail bond industry can offer an effective tool for getting parolees to comply with the terms of their release resulting in a decrease in the recidivism rate.  A Bureau of Justice Statistics study of prisoners released in 2006 indicates Ohio had a 30% recidivism rate.  The study shows, of the 11,621 inmates paroled in 2006,  3,486 were arrested on a new charge, absconded and remain at large or otherwise violated various terms of their parole.

 

By requiring as a condition of early release, the parolee obtain a Post Conviction Bond, family and friends would be brought into the process by providing a financial guarantee the defendant will comply with the terms of their parolee or risk returning to prison. 

The use of a Post Conviction Bond would not interfere, in any way, with the work being done by parole officers.  It would serve as additional incentive for the parolee to comply with the terms of their parolee and reintegrate into society.

I had the honor of meeting with Senator Seitz last October on behalf of the American Bail Coalition to discuss an amendment to SB 22 that would create an option for the parole board to require a Post Conviction Bond.  The idea was well received and is still being considered.

Legislative Initiatives

The OBAA, which will hold their annual conference on September 23 and 25, is considering introducing legislation which require a bail bond be posted on defendants charged with an aggravated felony (bail restrictions), requiring a defendant to post a bail bond upon being rearrested for failing to appear on a deposit bond (One bite at the apple) and establishish a time certain for the court to notify the surety of a failure to appear.

 

OBAA President Eddie Miller is determined to see the passing of legislation that will benefit the bail bond industry in Ohio.  Eddie said, “We have little chance at success without the support and participation of every licensed bail bond agent in this state.”

The bail bond industry in Ohio faces huge challenges ahead and will only succeed if the bail agents and surety companies operating in the Buckeye State work together as a cohesive unit.  Success is within our reach.  We just need to make it happen and we will.

Making the Case for a Post Conviction Bond

Hilton Head Site of GAPB Meeting

Posted May 23, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock under Bail Bond Insurance, Federal Bail Bonds, Meeting Recaps, and Post Conviction Bonds  - 0 Comments

Hilton Head, SC - GAPB usually holds its spring meeting on St.SimonsIsland in Southeastern Georgia.  This year they opted to go across state lines to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and the Westin Hotel.  The turnout was respectable though I expected more bondsmen to be present in light of the recent enactment of House Bill 889.

 

Speaking of HB 889, Scott Hall, GAPB Legislative Chair, gave an extensive overview of the efforts which led to the successful passing of this pivotal piece of legislation.  Scott went into detail on how HB 889 will benefit all bondsmen operating in Georgia.   The language of HB 889 leaves nothing to the imagination, if an offender is arrested for a felony offense of anything from DUI to trafficking in cocaine they will be required to post a bail bond.  Only an elected magistrate has the authority to deviate from the bail restrictions and release a defendant on his or her own recognizance.  In doing so the magistrate must list the reasons for this exceptional release, for the record.

Much like the chewy center of a lollypop this bill had a hidden surprise.  While the language found in HB 889 specifically references that offenders charged with a felony offense shall not be released through an ROR, pretrial release, diversion programs or pretrial intervention, it also includes 10% deposit bail through the reference of Uniform Superior Court Rule 27. 

FultonCounty jail pretrial, only about one third were required to post a bail bond.

  

 

While the purpose of bail bond insurance is to insure a defendant’s appearance in court there is a financial penalty if a bail bondsman is unable to perform which serves as an incentive to complete the task.  Pretrial release and deposit bail are not subject to similar penalties or accountability.  With a, produce the defendant or pay the bond, environment, commercial bail is the only best option for reducing jail crowding, outstanding warrants and costs to taxpayers.

 

 

 

 

National Update

 

I was asked to speak by GAPB President Jarrod Skelton on bail related issues impacting the bail industry nationally.  Members seemed to be very interested in ongoing efforts to legislatively reinstate commercial bail to the State of Oregon.  The issue of credit card bail kiosks popping up all over the country was also a hot topic.  Owners of these credit card kiosks are operating as bail agents by allowing defendants to access cash on their credit card, for a fee, for the purposes of posting a full cash or percentage bond.

 

 

 

We also discussed efforts to pass post conviction bond legislation.  Post conviction bonds are designed to be an added condition on prisoners being granted early release.  In the event a parolee violates their parole the bondsmen is responsible to have the parolee in court to answer to the violation or risk a bond forfeiture.   

 

Post conviction bond legislation was enacted in South Dakota earlier this year and the California agents association is working diligently to get the same result in their state which is currently experiencing major prison overcrowding and budget problems.

 

 

 

 

GAPB to Dispatch Emissaries to Texas

 

During a membership meeting discussion on how to encourage more Georgia bondsmen to participate in the association I suggested GAPB send emissaries to other state association meetings to see what could be learned.  While they considered California, North Carolina and Oklahoma they settled on paying registration fees for up to five GAPB members who would like to attend the Annual Meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas being held at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio this October.

   

 

While some GAPB members will be attending the PBT meeting in October, some PBT members may want to return the favor and attend GAPB’s annual meeting in Savannah.  That event will be held at Hyatt November 16 – 18 and also has a great turnout in a fantastic setting.

 

Calendar Note

The 21st Annual Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament will be held August 4, 2010 at the Woodhaven Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas in conjunction with the 3rd Quarter Meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas.  All are welcome to attend or contribute to our efforts to raise money for kids battling cancer to attend CampEsperanza.

Click "comment" above if you would like to post a comment to this blog. 

 

PBT always has a great turnout at the year-ending meeting.  There will be much to gain by interacting with Texas bondsmen.  In turn, I’m sure PBT members would be very interested to hear about GAPB’s recent legislative successes and achievements.

 

 

 

County government will most certainly see an increase of revenue through the payment of bond forfeitures where a bondsman was unable to perform.  Taxpayers will certainly see a reduction in their tax dollars going to provide free bail to criminal defendants. 

 

 

While Georgia bondsmen will benefit from this new legislation, citizens and local governments will also benefit through a reduction in crime and outstanding failure to appear warrants due to more defendants being released from jail on a secured bail bond. 

Making the Case for a Post Conviction Bond

Posted June 9, 2009 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock under Bail Bond Insurance, Commercial Bail, and Post Conviction Bonds  - 0 Comments

California is giving serious consideration to approving the use of a post conviction bond in those cases of prisoners being released early as an effort to ease prison overcrowding.  California is experiencing historic budget short falls and reducing the costs of running their prison system is just one area being targeted for funding cuts.  Governor Swartzennegger has already spoke of the need to release as many as 55,000 convicted felons prison early which has sent shivers through the spines of the that state's citizenry.  What is a post conviction bond and how can it use effectively reduce prison crowding?

A Concept Originating From Bail Bonds
According to a 2007 study released by the U.S. Department of Justice - Bureau of Justice Statistics title Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants in State Courts, the commercial bail bond industry is the most effective in ensuring a defendant appears in court.  The study further shows that a defendant is less likely to commit another crime while released on a bail bond pending trial.

Bail bonds are effective because the obligor (the insurance company) is 100% responsible for the defendant’s appearance in court until their case is adjudicated.  If the defendant fails to appear for court the bail agent must locate and return the defendant to the custody of the court or risk a financial penalty equal to the amount of the bail bond.

Bail bond agents minimize their risk by securing the bond, much like a bank would secure a loan, with real estate or cash pledged by third parties (spouse, employer, parents, friends, etc.) who are willing to become financially responsible for the defendant appearing in court.  This process is successful because between the bail agent and the bond indemnitors a net of supervision over the defendant is created with all parties having a financial interest in the defendant appearing in court.  The same concept can be applied to supervising a prisoner released from prison on parole and charged with complying with conditions of their parole.

Recidivism Rate Among Parolees
A 1994 Study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics titled Reentry Trends in the U.S. tracked 272,111 prisoners released from prison in 15 states.  The study found that within this group of parolees 67.5% were rearrested within 3 years.  The 1994 study also showed that 51.8% of these prisoners were back in prison either because of a new crime for which they received another prison sentence or because of a technical violation of their parole.

Post Conviction Bonds
The same principles for securing a defendant’s release pretrial through a bail agent can be applied to a post conviction situation where a convicted felon is being released early from prison.  The bail agent does not replace the parole officer but rather makes their job easier by providing an environment by which the parole officer and parolee are not the only parties involved with their release.

The net of supervision and financial responsibility brought about in a defendant’s pretrial release through a bail agent would also apply to convicted felons seeking a release from prison early whether through their own efforts or a need by the state to relieve overcrowding.  Several people would be financially responsible for the parolee complying with the terms of his/her parole.

If a parolee released through a Post Conviction Bond should fail to comply with any or all of the terms of his/her parole, the court will order the bond forfeited and issue a warrant for the parolee’s arrest.  The bail agent then has a specific period of time in which to locate, apprehend and return the defendant to the custody of the court.  In the event the bail agent is unable to return the defendant to the custody of the court, a financial penalty equal to the full amount of the bond would have to be paid to the court.

Goal of a Post Conviction Bond
The need for a method of ensuring a parolee’s compliance with the terms of the parole is simple.  Once they are released from incarceration the goal is not to go back to prison.  One way to not return to prison is to remain crime free and comply with the terms of their parole.  Whereas the 2007 BJS Study showed that defendants released pretrial were less likely to commit another crime while out on a bail bond, we believe the same will apply to prisoners released early on parole.  By making third parties financially responsible for seeing that a parolee successfully completes the terms of the parole, it not only saves the tax payers money through the easing of the prison population, but perhaps more importantly it creates a safer environment for the public when parolees are released back into society in a more secure fashion.

California bail bonds industry is in need of solutions to a very real problem; prison overcrowding.  A Post Conviction Bond is not the only solution but one of many that should be considered.  If made available, the use of a Post Conviction Bond would have a direct impact on reducing the number of parolees returning to prison for violating terms of their parole.  By reducing the recidivism rate among parolees you thereby reduce the problem and the costs associated with dealing with the problem.  Post Conviction Bonds can be effective and should be employed in California.