An Arkansas county makes it easier for criminals to post cash, county to profit
Why does a county of 98,000 citizens with outstanding warrants equal to ten percent of the population take steps to make it easier for criminal offenders to be released from jail unsupervised pending trial by posting a cash bond? Could free money be the motivator?
The reason is made clear in an article posted to Kait8.com by Jessi Turnure entitled Craighead County bail bond payment system goes digital. This article posted August 23, 2013, puts a positive spin on how Craighead County District Court Clerk Joe Monroe has made it easier for those charged with criminal offenses to post cash bail using a credit card. The Craighead County Sheriff’s Office is set to begin using the electronic payment system today.
The unnamed credit card provider euphemistically referred to in the article as, the “New System” will charge a seven percent fee on each cash bail transaction where a bail agent would typically charge ten percent, “..cheaper than going through a bail bondsman” says District Court Clerk Joe Monroe.
The purpose of bail is to guarantee those charged with criminal offenses appear in court each and every time required until the case is adjudicated. Sheriff Marty Boyd and District Court Clerk Monroe appear not to have implemented this change because the “New System” would be more effective in getting criminal offenders to court, rather “it’s cheaper than going through a bail bondsman” indicating the transaction price of seven percent was specifically set to undercut the cost of a bail bond and beat the “New System’s” only competitor, bail bondsmen.
This self serving move by the Craighead County government is unabashedly and unfairly competing with private sector bail bondsmen while simultaneously furthering a public policy that moves away from public safety towards generating a revenue source.
Craighead County has more than 9500 outstanding warrants, many for failure to appear, one would think the Sheriff and the District Clerk would be finding ways to expedite the release of criminal offenders through a licensed bail bondsman who will supervise the defendant and guarantee appearance.
Sheriff Boyd and District Clerk Monroe make no effort to camouflage the county’s move to enter the bail bond business.
Presumably, the “New System” is not licensed by the State of Arkansas to transact bail bonds. Arkansas bondsmen are not permitted to solicit in and around jails and courts. Law enforcement officials are not permitted to refer specific bonding companies. Yet, this is precisely what will occur with the “New System”. Jailers will be pushing the credit card option to captive detainees highlighting the fact the credit card transaction is cheaper than using a bail bondsman.
In fact, the system is not fair to detainees either. A typical ATM transaction carries a fee of $3.00. Craighead County will be charging detainees a seven percent transaction fee plus a $14 service fee to deposit a full cash bond with the county to secure their release. The defendant will also incur interest on their credit card for a cash transaction. So, is this release option really cheaper?
Like so many counties who have engaged in the bail bond business, Craighead County officials will soon be hooked on the cash needle and the euphoria that comes from generating free revenue unburdened by risk and overhead. Euphoria will lead to justification as to why this system is working even though failure to appear warrants are mounting and the number of criminal cases being adjudicated are dropping.
Those of us working in the private sector understand there is no financial reward without financial risk. It appears Craighead County has found the Holy Grail, a revenue source with no risk or accountability.