Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Revolving Door of Crime

How frustrating it must be for law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to protect us to then see people they arrest for a criminal act back on the street again and again. Who is making sure these individuals show up for their court hearings? Who knows where these individuals live and work, what their social habits are, where their hangouts are, who their friends are, what family members support and care for them and will help them remain out of trouble? Who will be responsible for finding these individuals and arresting them if they fail to appear for court or violate other conditions of release?

Their bail agent.

Bail agents are physically and financially responsible for defendants they release on bail. They know where their clients should and should not be and will arrest them and bring them back to jail if they fail to be accountable for their behavior. Appearing in court is a key element of that responsible behavior. While it is true that not even a bail agent can prevent an individual from committing a new crime while out on bail, the level of contact and supervision with a defendant is much greater than if released on your tax dollars. And, the bail agent uses his/her own resources and funds to find a defendant and put then back in jail. Not your money.

It is not a crime to hold an individual responsible for paying for their own release from jail if they have been arrested for a criminal offense. Yes, there are truly indigent individuals who are arrested for crimes. But if that indigent individual has a revolving door history of committing crimes, should you still pay for their release? What lesson is learned by that? Taxpayer-funded release from jail should be reserved for truly indigent individuals charged with minor and non-violent crimes who have no other resources or family and friends to assist in their release.

Florida's Legislative session ended Friday, April 30, 2010. The private surety bail industry attempted to pass a House and Senate bill that would have streamlined taxpayer-funded release through Florida's pretrial release programs. But some of your elected officials in Tallahassee thought the industry was being too tough by requiring individuals to pay for their own release from jail based on their crime and financial ability. So, we the taxpayers, will continue to allocate millions of dollars to release individuals arrested for a criminal offense through Florida's 28 counties that have a taxpayer-funded pretrial release program. And, thousands more dollars when law enforcement is tasked with trying to find individuals that fail to appear under such programs. But that may take some time because Florida's law enforcement agencies have thousands of active warrants that still haven't been served.

The private surety bail industry cares about our communities, public safety and our role in the criminal justice system. We will not stop advocating for less taxpayer-funded release methods that puts us all in danger. We are strong and we are committed.

Public policy affects public safety.

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