Friday, February 19, 2010

Pretrial Release Bills

Florida Senator John Thrasher and Representative Chris Dorworth are sponsoring bills for the 2010 legislative session that would streamline the types of people that could be released under a taxpayer-funded pretrial services/release program. Of course, this has caused a massive panic of pretrial services/release programs across Florida fearing they may loose their taxpayer-funded jobs!

Other states across the country are sponsoring similar legislation and some have even been successful getting such legislation passed, which also has led to similar uproars from pretrial services/release programs. So upset are they that the private surety bail industry has finally begun to show they type of lies and rhetoric these programs tell legislators, funders and the public, that they have launched a massive public relations effort to discredit us - but it is beginning to backfire on them!

The benefits of the Florida pretrial detention and release bills limiting release into a taxpayer-funded pretrial services/release program are many and take into account the wise use of taxpayer dollars and public safety:
  • The bills enhance public safety by targeting defendants who are charged with a misdemeanor offense or felony offense, which not dangerous in nature, for release
  • Defendants who have failed to appear for a court appearence previously would not be eligible for release due to their lack of accountability for appearing in court for past crimes
  • Defendants who are already on probation for a prior offense or have committed a new offense would also not be eligible for release
  • The "public option" for release for dangerous criminals and those with lengthy criminal histories would be eliminated
  • Defendants with prior convictions for violent offenses would not be eligible for release
  • The bills would require that those defendants who can afford to pay for their release do so and would require programs to target truly indigent defendants
  • The bills do not take away judicial discretion to release a defendant on non-monetary means if they do not qualify for a pretrial services/release program - the judge can still release a defendant on their own recognizance if appropriate
  • The bills prohibit the collection of any fees for release or supervision

Pretrial services/release programs continually try to portray bail agents as greedy and who are only out to make a profit off the unfortunate! Bail agents do not determine who gets out of jail and who doesn't. The decision as to whether or not a defendant is released and under what mechanism lies directly with the court. Unacceptable risk is the sole reason a bail agent would not bond a defendant out of jail.

The fact that pretrial services/release programs are complaining that these bills PROHIBIT them from collecting fees shows that they really don't care about non-monetary release or how tax dollars are spent! Individuals that comprise the private surety bail industry are all taxpayers too and we demand that our money be spend wisely and effectively!

So should all of you. Public policy affects public safety!

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