Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bail Industry Seeks to Ensure Safety

The Connecticut Post published an editorial on Monday, October 25 headlined “Bail system reforms are long overdue.” In certain cases, the private surety bail industry agrees.

 Like any industry in this country, there are a few bail agents who unfortunately create a negative image of the whole industry by engaging in unethical and unprofessional behavior. Competition has been at the forefront of business in this country for decades and can be a healthy incentive to increase the quality of service provided. However, competition turned to the negative can create situations that hurt many. The vast majority of professional bail agents across this county don’t condone undercutting bail bonds just to make a little more money over their competition because they know in the end, public safety will be affected.

What the public needs to remember is this: bail agents don’t make the decision as to who gets out of jail and on what method. Judges, who are elected by the citizenry, make the ultimate release decision for defendants charged with a criminal offense based on the facts presented to them. The bail agent is a tool for the court and the defendant to affect the release from jail if the Judge orders a secured monetary bond. The bail agent then contracts with the defendant and an indemnitor to secure the release and assure the court that the defendant will appear at all required court proceedings until disposition of the case. If the defendant fails to appear for court, the bail agent is responsible to either return the fugitive to justice or pay the bond to the court.

Bail agents must submit a “power” to the court to release a defendant, as issued by the insurance company who underwrites the bail agent. In essence, the “power” guarantees the full financial release of the defendant into the custody of the bail agent. Bail agents who choose to release a defendant on a “someone’s word” of future financial payment is not only doing so illegally, but they are going down a very slippery slope that the bail industry doesn’t condone despite the unsavory practices of other fellow bail agents. Professional and ethical bail agents shouldn’t have a problem with certifying under oath they have charged a defendant the legally required premium. Those that do shouldn’t be in the business.

Another key point is this: neither the bail agent, a taxpayer-funded pretrial release service nor the Judge who grants a defendant Release on Recognizance (a promise to appear) can guarantee to the court that the released defendant will not commit a new criminal offense while released from jail. Judges release hundreds of defendants on a promise to appear daily.

The private surety bail industry has a long and historic partnership in the criminal justice system and is the most effective and efficient means of pretrial release. Is the system flawed in some areas? Probably. Is the industry working hard to ensure that bail agents conduct themselves with the upmost professionalism and abide by laws of the state they post bail in? Absolutely. As the article stated, when dangerous people are taken into custody the system, and not the bail agent, need to ensure that they stay there.

The private surety bail industry will continue to promote the taxpayer and public safety benefits it provides in our communities.

Melanie Ledgerwood - Director of Government Relations
Accredited Surety and Casualty Company, Inc.

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