Specialty Release Options Not Ready for Primetime

Can you imagine the ball boy for the Indianapolis Colts saying to the head coach, put me in for Luck, I want to play quarterback? Or the grip on the movie set telling the director to sit Clint Eastwood down because he’s ready to play Josey Wells?   It’s hard to imagine, right? So why do specialty release options like deposit bail and pretrial services or tools like GPS ankle monitors believe they’re ready to replace surety backed bail bonds as a means to assure a defendant  appears for his/her court dates?
Public-funded government pretrial release programs were created to help the indigent gain release from jail pending trial.  As with any government agency, expansion is equal to survival so these programs had to expand their criteria from just helping the indigent to including first time offenders then repeat offenders and before you knew it all offenders were being considered. Pretrial Services quickly became another bureaucracy that told you all the good things they were doing for society while hiding the statistics that underscore the program’s ineffectiveness and failed mission.
The use of deposit (10% cash/90% unsecured) bail by the courts is such a blatant cash grab by the courts and criminal attorneys who assign the funds to cover their fee.  I don’t see how judges can keep a straight face when they utter the words deposit bond. Deposit bail provides no third party guarantee of appearance and no assurance a defendant, who has absconded, will be returned to the custody of the court. If the court grants a criminal offender a 90% discount on the bond, why not just release the defendant on his/her own recognizance and save all the paperwork?
GPS ankle monitors are a different animal. Many bail agents have found them to be very useful tools when writing higher risk bonds. I say tool because ankle monitor providers provide no guarantee of appearance. If a defendant wearing an ankle monitor strays outside his/her preset zone, then it’s the monitoring company or bondsmen who must address this with the defendant. The same holds true if the battery needs recharging, it takes human intervention to get the defendant to act. Finally, a monitor strap can be cut and once the defendant has separated them self from the monitor it becomes ineffective.
The criminal justice system can work efficiently with pretrial service agencies if they stick to their original mandate, working with indigent defendants and leave those that can afford bail to the bail agents.
Deposit bail has no place in the pretrial release segment of the criminal justice system.   If a criminal defendant can afford to deposit ten percent of the bond in cash with the court, then they can afford to obtain a surety backed bail bond from a bail agent who will supervise that individual and guarantee his/her appearance in court when required.
GPS ankle monitors are to the bail agent what the hammer is to the carpenter, a tool and the tool can’t replace the carpenter. There is a great push in California, during this period of prison realignment, to use ankle monitors as the sole means of releasing defendants from custody pretrial. The GPS monitor companies have done a great job convincing legislators ankle monitors are the way of the future. If the GPS advocates were lucky, no one asked them about guarantees of performance.
Bail agents are the only release option to guarantee performance. This is why the commercial bail industry will continue to take center stage in the world of criminal pretrial release. It is the duty of every bail agent is to keep reminding their elected representatives of this actuality.