Monday, March 1, 2010

Pretrial Release Facts - National Public Radio

National Public Radio recently did a three-part series on pretrial release in jails across the country; so many of the points in the series were completely nonfactual, that the private surety bail industry needed to set the record straight and let the taxpayers know the truth. From the series, it was clear that NPR already had a bias toward the continuation of taxpayer-funded pretrial services/release programs.

Mr. Dennis Bartlett, Executive Director of the American Bail Association and one of the foremost experts on bail and pretrial services, recently wrote an article to refute facts highlighted in the NPR series:

"NPR mentioned in their series that about 500,000 inmates are languishing in jails for want of bail. A quick check of the data published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) shows that indeed, there are about 500,000 non-convicted defendants held in the nation's jails. They constitute about 63 percent of the total jail population of about 780,000 inmates.

The NPR story is fallacious in that it gives the impression of a great mass of unfortunates stuck in jail, like some medieval black hole in Calcutta. This is far from the case. The cohort of 500,000 non-convicted defendants is not static. Over a year almost the entire cohort turns over by people coming into the system on new arrests and people exiting on bail, going back to freedom after case closure or getting on the Department of Corrections bus to head for the penitentiary after conviction.

Some will not get out on bail. Why? Some further facts which are all supported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
  • Half of those arrested were already on probation, out on bond or parolees
  • Seven-out-of-ten arrested had prior convictions
  • Four-out-of-ten had served three or more sentences
  • Over 60 percent were on regular drug usage, 40 percent were intoxicated at the time of the offense and 42 percent were current enrollees in a substance abuse program
  • Jails are also the largest repository for the mentally ill

Recently the Pretrial Justice Institute was granted a $250,000 award by the Public Welfare Foundation to justify the expansion of pretrial services by means of an educational program aimed at state lawmakers to handle the horde of 500,000 inmates stuck in jail without bail. Initially at least, and in light of the BJS figures above, it appears that the grounds for getting this grant are spurious."

Thanks Dennis for your ongoing contributions to the private surety bail industry!

More corrections regarding the NPR series to come . . .


  1. A few weeks back I read a great response to the NPR story from Jerry Watson, Chief Legal Officer at AIA. Much like Mr. Bartlett, Mr. Watson's response was very powerful and pointed out many misrepresented facts and a complete lack of proper reporting by Ms. Sullivan in the NPR story. Mr. Watson's comments are available on NPR site as well as at the following link ...Pretrial Service Agencies are simply throwing our tax dollars away and making the streets less safe for our families. It is nice to see everyone pitching in to fight this together.

  2. when surety's (by actions and not rhetoric) demand their agents do much better job of returning fta's to face charges in court, they will receive much broader public support. too many games being played by defendants, indemitors, bondsman, mga's and suretys, and its very transparent and unacceptable to the public. fta may be slightly lower for bondsman, but it could be significantly lower. statistically a $250 fta has same weight as a $250,000 fta, yet $250's are written off. and public will continue to view this write off as profit trumps bondsman statute promise. and even some defendants with fta 1 year or more, blatantly post their location on social media know that bondsman won't do nothing since $ remission vs $ cost to arrest is not eats into profits. surety companys need to drive this message home to their agents. surety may have best result, but best result is not best.

  3. In California, we're about to see what happens when the budget cuts for jails take place. Non-violent inmates will serve time in county jails to save money, and it may result in shorter jail times, as the county jails are already overloaded.

    Having a well run bail bond process can mean less pressure on the jail system.