Friday, September 25, 2009

Speech to County Commissioners on September 24, 2009 Regarding Budget

Good evening Mayor, Commissioners, Comptroller Haynie and Mr. Lalchandani:

My name is Melanie Ledgerwood representing Accredited Surety and Casualty Company. I am here this evening to strongly encourage you to follow through on a review of the Pretrial Release program at the Orange County jail and the amount of taxpayer funds being used to release and supervise defendants charged with serious offenses.

Each of you received a hand delivered packet on August 17 detailing the private surety industry's concerns about the types of offenses people were being released on without any judicial involvement. These are the offenses that Commissioner Brummer and Commissioner Fernandez expressed concern about. Individuals have been released through the Pretrial Release program for such offenses as DUI, possession of and carrying a concealed firearm/weapon, possession of short-barreled gun, rifle, machine gun, grand theft 3rd degree, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, battery, assault on law enforcement, prostitution, burglary, forgery, theft, possession and armed possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and controlled substances with intent to sell/deliver, exposing sexual organs, lewd and lascivious behavior, throwing a deadly missile at/into an occupied vehicle and numerous driving-related offenses including habitual offenders with license revoked or no valid driver's license. Despite our concern over these types of offenses, we continue to hear the private surety bail industry is being untruthful and that we only care about making more money.

In front of me is just a sampling of responses from concerned citizens stating that they do not want their tax dollars spent to release and supervise defendants charged with these types of crimes. The private surety bail industry is not just about ensuring a defendant appears at court but also about protecting public safety. Bail agents provide a much higher level of supervision than the Pretrial Release program, which stated Tuesday that most defendants choose the automated telephone check-in system as their preferred method of supervision. Defendants released on bail have face-to-face contact with their agents, visits to a defendant's home or place of employment, live telephone conversations and not to an automated system and interaction with a defendant's family to ensure all conditions of bond are being met and to avoid any new law violations.

Community supervision is critical for a defendant to successfully complete their case and the private surety bail industry has a proven track record of providing such supervision at no cost to the taxpayer. An 84 percent success rate for the Pretrial Release program is also a 16 percent failure rate, which we don't deem to be "pretty successful" as the taxpayers pay for such failure in the end. In addition, the 84 percent success rate is artificially inflated as many defendants are also on a bail bond and it is the bail agent that ensures success.

Using taxpayer funds to release and supervise defendants charged with serious offenses, whether or not such releases are in accordance with an administrative order issued by Judge Perry, is a public policy decision this board must make. However your constituents have stated that they do not want their tax dollars spent in such fashion. Bail agents live and work in our community and we care about those individuals who CHOOSE to commit crimes and are then released back into the community. Public policy affects public safety!

1 comment:

  1. Pro Bono work:
    Go see who is following up (daily) with John Hawthorne, son of old Milton Claude Hawthorne.
    John is on house arrest supervised? NO booze, NO controlled substances etc. The kid is 19
    John is not allowed to go outside of the house.
    355 Maine ST