Monday, July 27, 2009

A homicide suspect was apprehended in Sanford, Florida yesterday after running a red light. Guess what his previous criminal charges were? Battery on law enforcement officer, burglary and vehicle theft. These are exactly the same type of charges people are being released on through the Orange County, Florida jail's pretrial release program every day! So called "minor" offenses seldom remain minor but usually escalate to more serious crimes, particularly when the individual is not held accountable for the crime.

If an individual is arrested for committing a criminal offense, and they are asked if they want to, "get out of jail for free or pay a bondsman to get out," what do you think their answer would be? Do you think they would learn anything about accountability with this message? Would you feel safe knowing such an individual is able to walk out of jail for free back to your neighborhood?

What is your answer?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

During the past four days, eight people have died in a killing spree across Central Florida, including a homeless individual stabbed 15 times by a 19 year old man. Such crimes keep law enforcement very busy, as well as putting them in harms every time they go out on such calls.

However, almost as quickly as individuals are arrested in Orange County, Florida for all manner of drug offenses, carrying concealed weapons, burglary, theft, fraud, forgery, prostitution, lewd/lascivious behavior, battery, grand theft 3rd degree, DUI, etc., they are released back onto the streets using our tax dollars. This practice is a slap in the face to all dedicated law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to put criminals in jail as well as all of us as taxpayers that there is no accountability for the actions of these criminals. Many of these defendants have a "revolving door" relationship within the criminal justice system.

This practice has to stop! The private surety bail system has a proven and historic history of effectively and efficiently supervising defendants using their own financial resources. If you care about this lack of accountability and want to help, let us know!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The crimes defendants are being administratively released on without ever seeing a Judge are alarming!
  • Driving under the influence, many with minors in the vehicle at the time as well as property damage and personal injury
  • Driving with no valid driver's license or expired license
  • Driving with license revoked/suspended with knowledge and habitual offenders with license permanently revoked
  • Possession of cocaine, heroin, controlled substances, many with "armed" possession with intent to deliver or distribute
  • Carrying concealed weapon or firearm
  • Battery
  • Grand theft 3rd degree
  • Burglary
  • Theft
  • Fraud
  • Forgery
  • Child neglect
  • Prostitution and related offenses
  • Trafficking in stolen property
  • Throw deadly missile at/into occupied vehicle
  • Possession of short-barreled gun, rifle, machine gun
  • Exposing sexual organs
  • Lewd/lascivious behavior
  • Exploitation of the elderly
  • Resisting law enforcement with violence
The list goes on and on! All of these releases were made with your tax dollars and continue to be spent by "supervising" these individuals in the community.

We should all demand more accountability from our elected officials in spending our limited tax dollars and we should not be competing with private enterprise when they can do a much more efficient and effective job.
The Orange County Jail made their budget presentation yesterday to the Board of County Commissioners for a proposed budget of $146 million!

Kudos to Orange County Commissioner Mildred Fernandez who took a leadership position and asked tough questions about the Jail's Pretrial Release program, which is funded at over $2 million alone! The jail population is currently at 3,800 inmates and continues to remain at a 90 percent occupancy rate. The Jail Chief, Michael Tidwell, said the Jail is "enjoying the lower population and anticipates that it will remain low for some time." So why are over $2 million in tax dollars being spent to continue to release and supervise defendants that are able to post a bail bond and that never even see a Judge for such release?

Mayor Crotty said that the County is in a "belt tightening" mode yet still providing "superior government services to the citizens." I don't see anything superior about spending millions of tax dollars in these difficult economic times to release defendants from the Jail free of charge when the private bail industry is willing and able to do so at no cost to the taxpayers!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Orange County Commissioners meet tomorrow, July 21st to begin budget worksessions. Will they continue to allocate millions of tax dollars to the Pretrial Release program? Stay tuned into the blog and we will let you know!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Private surety bail affords the opportunity to reduce jail overcrowding, increase public safety and improve compliance of defendants released into the community while they wait for their case to be disposed of. Any release method should always take into account the best use of taxpayer dollars and public safety. The private surety bail industry continually provides education regarding the public safety benefits it provides. We will continue to advocate for less use of taxpayer-funded Pretrial Release programs that historically have higher failure to appear rates and fugitive rates.
Emptying jails as fast as possible to save money is bad public policy and creating an "in-and-out" nature in a jail sends a message to criminals that accountability is not very high! Re-arrest rates and failure to appear rates are higher for defendants released on unsecured bail. The economic costs to taxpayers for failure to appear is substantial. Only private surety bail has the lowest failure to appear and fugitive rates of all methods of pretrial release.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Two national organizations, the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA) and the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) advocate for the proliferation of taxpayer-funded pretrial release programs. NAPSA primarily consists of pretrial practitioners and its national standards on pretrial relase clearly states that, "compensated sureties should be abolished."

The PJI states that it advocates throughout the country to increase fairness and access to justice and that their goals of advocacy are three-fold:
  1. Reduce the number of poeple who are held before trial when they pose no threat to the community and will return for court appearances;
  2. Ensure that dangerous people are held before trial, keeping communities safe; and
  3. Increase the number of people who are appropriately diverted from the criminal justice system to services such as mental health or substance abuse treatment.

Of the Pretrial Release programs analyzed, it is clear that dangerous people are not being held before trial but are being released in to our communities. When they fail to appear, more of our tax dollars are used to find them and put them back into the system!

The Citizens' Right-to-Know legislation is a valuable tool to educate policy makers providing funding to Pretrial Release programs regarding the types of defendants being released and supervised using taxpayer dollars.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pretrial Release programs operate in two manners: either a Judge orders a defendant into the program or jail staff place defendants into the program without ever seeing a Judge - this is called "administrative" release. In several states, administrative release is being challenged legally as unconstitutional as statutes clearly state that only a "judicial officer" can make a release decision.
Nor are pretrial release staff "certifying" to the Court that they have investigated a defendant's history in order to make an informed release decision.

In Orange County, Florida, defendants may be released administratively into the Pretrial Release program if the program certifies to the Court that is has investigated and verified the following information on each defendant:
  • The circumstances of the accused person's family, employment, financial resources, character, mental condition and length of residency in the community;
  • The accused person's record of convictions, appearances at court proceedings, or flight to avoid court proceedings, or failure to appear at court proceedings;
  • Other factors necessary to assist the court in its determination of the indigence of the accused person and whether he/she should be released under the supervision of the Pretrial Release program; and
  • The accused person must reside in or own real property in the State of Florida, and this fact must be verified

Based upon a criminal history investigation, the accused person must meet the following qualifications to be eligible for release under the Pretrial Release program based on an Administrative Order issued by the Chief Judge:

  • The accused person has not been found guilty of a violent felony within the last ten years;
  • The accused person has not been found guilty of a felony in the past two years;
  • The accused person has not served a sentence in a state or federal correction system, excluding jails, within the last ten years;
  • The accused person is not currently on bail (monetary or non-monetary) or other legal constrain;
  • When considering a defendant arrested on a traffic charge, the accused person has not been convicted twice for DUI in the last five years and has not been arrested for DUI in the last 12 months;
  • The accused person has not willfully and knowingly failed to appear and has not been arrested at any time following the forfeiture of a bond in the case at issue;
  • The accused person has not failed to appear in any other case in the last two years, or more than once in the last five years, as evidenced by the issuance of a capias, unless there is evidence that the failures to appear were not willful; and
  • The accused person has not exhibited mental illness or behavior indicating he/she might cause harm to himself/herself or other individuals, unless such individual is released with a Baker Act to an appropriate receiving facility.

It takes time and effort to obtain this detailed information, yet defendants are quickly released administratively in to the Pretrial Release program, many who have lengthy prior criminal and/or driving offense histories, failures to appear and violations of probation.

If you care about the types of releases happening in the Orange County, Florida Jail, e-mail the Board of County Commissioners. Budget worksessions start on July 21, 2009 and they need to know how you feel about taxpayer funds being used to release and supervise defendants:

Two incumbent district Commissioners, Stewart and Segal, are running for Mayor - now is the time to make your opinions on this subject known!

Friday, July 10, 2009

A review of required pretrial release registry information from the Orange County, Florida jail shows defendants being released "administratively" without any monetary security and without ever seeing a Judge for the following offenses:
  • DUI (and with minor in vehicle >.20 and with property damage and/or personal injury)
  • Possession of cocaine, heroin, carisprodal, xanax, methadone, cannabis, oxycodone, hydrocodone, ecstasy, controlled substance, drug paraphernalia (including with intent to sell and deliver)
  • Battery/battery on law enforcment officer
  • Felony battery
  • Grand theft 3rd degree
  • Carrying a concealed weapon or firearm
  • Possession of short-barreled gun, rifle, machine gun
  • Throwing deadly missile at/into occupied vehicle
  • Theft/larceny
  • Trespass
  • Burglary/possession of burglary tools
  • Dealing in stolen property
  • Prostitution/assignation/soliciting for prostitution
  • Exploitation of the disabled or elderly
  • Forgery/scheme to defraud/fraud
  • Neglect of a child
  • Exposing sexual organs/indecent exposure
  • Lewd/lascivious behavior
  • Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
  • Driving with license suspended/revoked with knowledge
  • Driving with license suspended as habitual offender
  • Driving with no valid driver's license

These are not individuals charged with "minor"crimes or who don't present a public safety threat to our community. The jail does release violent and serious offenders!

When someone is released into the Orange County, Florida jail's Pretrial Release program, they are required to either have a brief weekly face-to-face contact with a jail staffer or they have to call into an automated system weekly or monthly. Only the automated call-in system costs the defendant any money and then only $19 every three months! Our tax dollars are paying to "supervise" defendants in this manner during an 8-to-5 shift. If a defendant fails to appear for any court-related hearing, more tax dollars are spent to re-arrest them and then they sit in jail on a "no bond" status.
Due to lobbying efforts, legislation was passed in July 2008 called the Citizens' Right-to-Know Act, which requires more transparency and accountability of taxpayer-funded Pretrial Release programs. The legislation requires programs to prepare a weekly register displaying key information on defendants released through the program. In reviewing registry information for the Orange County, Florida jail, it was revealed that defendants charged with serious and repeat offenses, as well as those defendants with lengthy criminal histories, were routinely being released without financially secured means.
Pretrial release programs have no financial responsibility for defendants who fail to appear or become fugitives, nor to they attempt to apprehend them. Many Pretrial Release programs are governed by an Administrative Order that allows jail staff to release defendants before ever seeing a Judge. The level of supervision and interaction with a defendant released through a Pretrial Release program is starkly different from someone released on a bail bond.
In an effort to reduce jail overcrowding, pretrial release programs were originally designed to release non-violent, first-time offenders and indigent defendants who were unable to post a bail bond. Today however, defendants charged with serious offenses who have lengthy criminal histories, failures to appear and violations of probation are released using our tax dollars. Pretrial release programs are competing with private enterprise to do a service the private surety bail industry does with no tax dollars!
Our country is facing an unprecedented economic crisis; state and local governments are drastically cutting budgets and raising fees for services while passing the costs on to already financially-strapped citizens! On top of the financial crisis, states across the country are facing a growing crime rate which has become exacerbated by taxpayer-funded pretrial release programs that routinely release violent and repeat offenders back into our communities.
Private surety bail helps to facilitate the release of defendants by providing the option of paying a 10 percent premium (minimum of $100) to secure release. Credit is often extended to defendants who pose a good risk yet lack the cash to be released and can obtain co-signers and/or collateral to secure the bond.
Bail agents track and monitor defendants to ensure they appear in court and receive their sentences. Bail agents and the insurance company backing the bonds are monetarily responsible for defendants released on private surety bail. If a defendant flees, the agent must return the defendant to jail or pay the full amount of the bond - which is often a large sum of money. Bail agents not only have a financial interest in making sure a defendant appears in court, but they also have a fudiciary commitment to the courts, taxpayers and victims of crime.
The private surety bail industry has a long and historic partnership in the criminal justice system. The purpose of bail is to ensure the appearance of the defendant in court and to enhance public safety. Private surety bail has done this for generations with an astounding record of reliability and accountability at no cost to the taxpayer.