Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reining-in Pretrial Release Programs at the Federal Level

In the 112th Congress, the current meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, H.R. 1885 has been filed by Representative Ted Poe of Texas, to include seven co-sponsors.

H.R. 1885 will require state and local pretrial services agencies receiving federal funding to report to the Department of Justice on defendants released through such agencies. This measure will provide greater transparency for programs funded by taxpayer dollars in an effort to gage their effectiveness in the release and supervision of arrested individuals.

Bail agents, their insurance companies and the American Bail Coalition have been pushing for such a bill at the federal level. Private surety bail has been proven by national, state and local studies to be the most effective and efficient means of pretrial release. Private bail uses no taxpayer dollars.

A special report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics that reviewed the release of felony defendants in state courts from 1990-2004 found the following:
Compared to release on recognizance, defendants on financial release were more likely to make all scheduled court appearances. Defendants released on an unsecured bond or as part of an emergency release were most likely to have a bench warrant issued because they failed to appear in court.”
The private surety bail industry will continue to advocate for less use of taxpayer-funded pretrial release programs that historically have higher failure to appear and fugitive rates.

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