A common misnomer among the general public is, regardless of the economy there will always be crime and as such business will always be booming for bail agents. If only that were true, like any other small business, bail agents are feeling the pinch in these tough times.
A bad economy can and has created a number of negative financial impacts on the commercial bail industry and they come from different sources. When someone is arrested they would typically have any number of friends, family or co-workers they could call upon for assistance to post their bond. With high unemployment, soaring gas prices and a home foreclosure epidemic, an arrestee’s circle of financial support has shrunk considerably. Most people are holding their cards close and their cash closer to deal with their own immediate financial needs. Offering financial help to others has fallen off their list of priorities.
States, counties and city governments are also dealing with this bad economy. Stockton, California recently had to file bankruptcy. A tightening of their budget resulted in a reduction of police officers and jail staff. As a result, there are fewer arrests and sections of jails are being moth balled due to the lack of personnel. A smaller jail means fewer beds and the need to expedite the release of pretrial detainees to avoid overcrowding. Some questions arise as to how these pretrial detainees are being released pending trial.
Some jurisdictions have resorted to the wholesale release of defendants through unsecured release options like OR, taxpayer funded pretrial release services or 90 percent discounted bonds. There is a mistaken belief these release options are actually saving money because defendants are released quickly with a perceived savings on the cost of housing. Once you get passed the immediate gratification reality hits. Defendants fail to show for court, criminal cases are not prosecuted and crime increases. This culture of unsecured release fosters a lack of respect for the criminal justice system among criminal offenders. No accountability on the part of the court system or criminal defendants.
Some courts looking for remedies are guilty of overlooking the obvious; the commercial bail profession. Simply put, bonds are too high in this poor economy. Some offenders charged with aggravated offensive require a large bond regardless of the state of the economy while more common place criminal offenses can tolerate a more modest bond. The courts are infinitely better off reducing the bond schedule as opposed to going from a large bond, to not requiring any security. For some reason this concept just doesn’t register.
Courts and local government would be wise to not compound their cash crunch with a crime wave. Citizens have enough to worry about with this poor economy without having to fear for their personal safety. Allowing criminals to be released on an unsecured bond and no supervision is tantamount to throwing the citizenry under the bus. With local courts sticking with proven secured release options bail agents can continue to survive and failures to appear can remain in check even in a tough economy.