The break from last year’s battles in Connecticut, New Mexico and Utah was too short for my taste. No sooner than champagne glasses were clinked welcoming in the New Year did we see the implementation of New Jersey’s statewide pretrial release program go into full effect, turning The Garden State on its ear.
Several counties in that state have filed suit to have the new law overturned on the bases of being an unfunded mandate that is costing the taxpayers millions of dollars. The Council of Local Mandates is set to rule on this suit later this month. In the meantime, it’s Christmas in January for many a criminal offender in that state who are being released pending trial with no supervision.
I just returned from a trip to Sacramento working on behalf of ABC, where I attended a meeting that included representatives of the California’s two state bail agent associations, lobbyist and other interested parties. The topic of discussion was criminal justice reform and how we in the bail industry could work with the state legislature to bring about positive changes that would enhance surety bails vital role within the system.
My next stop will be the PBT meeting taking place in Austin, Texas January 10 -11. Aside from the pending lawsuit in Harris County regarding that county’s bond schedule, some Texas legislators are seeking changes to that states current system of bail that would permit criminal offenders to receive unsupervised release pending trial.
The key battle states for the survival of commercial bail in 2017 will be AZ, CA, CO, CT, MD, NV, NJ, TX and WA. Don’t be surprised if new battles flair up in the remaining states. Look to our 2017 Bail Bond Legislative Log for detail on pending legislation.
There is cause for optimism with incoming president Donald Trump who appears to be favorable to holding criminal offenders accountable than the outgoing administration. Ultimately, we are the only ones who can lead the fight in our battle. We are not without our allies. There are plenty of entities within the criminal justice system who do subscribe to an agenda that entails reducing accountability for criminal offenders in deference to crime victims and public safety.
Rest assured American Surety Company will continue to play a key role in the fight for survival of the bail industry, committing time and financial resources directly and through our membership with the American Bail Coalition. In 2016, I personally traveled more than 125,000 miles on 140 flights to numerous states throughout the country advocating for our profession. ASC President & CEO, Bill Carmichael spends a great deal of his time working with ABC and the American Legislative Exchange Council to ensure commercial bail will always play an instrumental role within the criminal justice system.
All bail agents and interested parties should heed the call to participate and contribute to the fight in your state. We can continue to prevail, if we fight together.