Making the Case for a Post Conviction Bond

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.