Friday, January 18, 2013

Taxpayer-Funded Jail Release

In our previous post regarding taxpayer-funded releases from the Orange County, FL jail, we mentioned that we would be highlighting some cases in which defendants with serious charges and/or lengthy criminal histories were released from jail on unsecured means using taxpayer funds.
Again, the commercial bail industry understands the need to control jail populations and thus a taxpayer-funded pretrial release program can play a critical role in this regard.  However, those programs should focus on the first-time, non-violent offender who is indigent and cannot afford a monetary bond.  Indigency and non-violent crimes should be the key considerations for release using taxpayer funds.
Although public record, we will not be identifying the names of the defendants we will highlight to protect their privacy.  If members of the public wish to research these releases themselves they can readily do so by asking the Clerk of Court's office for the jail's pretrial release registries for a nominal fee.
Defendant #1 - arrested for possession of cocaine (TDF) and possession of drug paraphernalia (FDM) on October 29, 2012; released into the taxpayer-funded pretrial services program on November 29, 2012.  Defendant violated their pretrial release on January 7, 2013 and has a warrant for their arrest

Defendant has a criminal history dating back to 1989:
  • 10/1989 - inmate of house of ill fame; direct/transport for purpose of prostitution; offer prostitution, lewdness, assignation (SDMs); adjudication withheld
  • 5/1990 - controlled substance offense (TDF); disposition unknown
  • 6/1990 - offer prostitution, lewdness, assignation (SDM); adjudicated guilty
  • 10/1993 - offer prostitution, lewdness, assignation (SDM); adjudicated guilty
  • 6/1994 - prostitution (3 counts) (SDMs); failed to appear; adjudicated guilty
  • 8/1995 - prostitution or lewdness; prostitution (4 counts) (FDMs); adjudicated guilty
  • 4/1997 - possession of drug paraphernalia (FDM); adjudicated guilty
  • 1/1998 - battery (FDM); 2 failure to appears; violation of probation; adjudicated guilty
  • 3/1998 - possession of controlled substance (TDF); adjudicated guilty
  •  7/1998 - possession of controlled substance (TDF); possession of drug paraphernalia (FDM); adjudicated guilty
  • 1/01 - controlled substance offense (TDF); possession of drug paraphernalia (FDM); adjudicated guilty
  • 10/03 - resisting law enforcement without violence (FDM); adjudicated guilty
  • 4/04 - driving with no valid driver's license (SDM); 2 failures to appear; adjudicated guilty
  • 3/05 - possession of cocaine (TDF); possession of drug paraphernalia; failure to appear; adjudicated guilty
  • 7/05 - driving with license suspended/revoked with knowledge (FDM); adjudicated guilty
  • 8/05 - possession of controlled substance (TDF); driving with license suspended/revoked with knowledge (FDM); failure to appear; violation of probation; adjudicated guilty
  • 1/07 - possession of cocaine (TDF); possession of drug paraphernalia (FDM); no information filed
  • 8/07 - possession of controlled substance (TDF); possession of drug paraphernalia (FDM); violation of probation; adjudicated guilty
  • 10/09 - battery (2 counts) (FDM); taxpayer-funded pretrial release; adjudicated guilty
This particular defendant was able to pay for a monetary bond nine (9) separate times; other release mechanisms included population control release; summons; taxpayer-funded release and via pleas with fines and court costs.
Given this defendant's criminal history, failures to appear and violation of probation, the public should question why they would be released on taxpayer funds.  Unfortunately, there are many other individuals who commit crimes that have no criminal history and justifiably could be considered for release on less stringent means.
Proponents of taxpayer-funded pretrial release programs repeatedly claim that only non-violent offenders with little criminal histories are released into their programs, which we are proving every day is not the case across the country.  Most defendants can only be released into these programs through a judicial order but some programs are still allowing jail staff to release defendants directly.
The commercial bail industry believes there needs to be a balance between an individual's criminal charge, their criminal history and their ability to pay for their own release before releasing someone on taxpayer funds.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

2013 Tax Dollars at Work

If you are one of those people who believe that when an alleged crime is committed, and law enforcement has probable cause to arrest someone for allegedly committing the crime and takes them to jail, that person will have to find family and/or friends to bail them out of jail.

In many cases that is exactly what happens.  But increasingly, people arrested on probable cause grounds for committing a crime and are taken to jail, are simply let out of jail a few hours later and the taxpayers are the ones who are footing the bill!  And not for just minor offenses or for defendants who have stellar backgrounds.

Around the country, there are national organizations funded in part with federal dollars, that are advocating and relentlessly promoting the abolition of all financial release from jail and pushing the taxpayer-funded release agenda to elected officials and policy makers that use taxpayer funds to operate county jails.  They claim that defendants are "languishing in jail" because they can't afford monetary release from jail.  And in essence, it is the fault of those "greedy bail bond agents" who only care about increasing their profits, don't supervise defendants or care about public safety.  These organizations have attempted to convince our judiciary and elected officials that unless they establish such programs, the jails will burst at the seams and taxpayers will be on the hook for millions of dollars.  And of course, the message being given is that taxpayer-funded programs can supervise and monitor defendants much better than their private-sector partners who have just been in the business for centuries.

Fortunately in Florida, the Citizens' Right-to-Know Act was enacted in July 2008, which requires taxpayer-funded pretrial services programs to make available to the public a weekly registry that includes information on defendants released through the program as well as an annual report.

In Florida's 28 taxpayer-funded pretrial services programs, Judges have broad discretion to place defendants, including those with serious charges and criminal histories, in such programs in lieu of financial bail.  In some cases, Judges will order both a financial bond and supervision under a taxpayer-funded pretrial services program, which more often than not, requires the defendant to be supervised via an automated telephone monitoring system.  Bail agents are financially and physically responsible for defendants released on bail; this additional layer of "supervision" is unnecessary and not a wise use of taxpayer funds.

The commercial bail bond industry acknowledges that taxpayer-funded pretrial services programs can be an instrument to reduce jail overcrowding if used for the right purposes.  Originally created to help the release of indigent, first-time, non-violent offenders, today these programs have morphed into huge bureaucratic programs that can cost millions of dollars to fund.

For example, in our own back yard, the Orange County jail's pretrial services program was funded at $2,797,196 for the 2011 calendar year (source: OPPAGA); the 2012 annual report is not due until March of this year so we have been unable to obtain the 2012 budget numbers without a public records request.

Of this $2.7 million, $1,394,627 was allocated for inmate identification, court information, and release processing of non-secured releases (without financial release); $1,402,568 was allocated for post-release supervision of non-secured releases.  So what is the return on investment?  Well, $16,371 was collected from a total of 6,758 defendants served through the program.  You do the math.

For the week of December 30, 2012 through January 5, 2013, below is a snapshot of the charges defendants were released on at First Appearance hearings into the jail's taxpayer-funded pretrial services program:
  • 2 charges for failure to appear for court
  • 1 charge for DUI
  • 11 charges for domestic violence
  • 2 charges for petit theft
  • 2 charges for aggravated battery on a pregnant person
  • 1 charge for hindering communication to law enforcement
  • 1 charge for aggravated assault domestic violence
  • 1 charge for battery on law enforcement officer
  • 1 charge for attempting to resist law enforcement with violence
  • 1 charge for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon
  • 1 charge for battery dating violence
  • 1 charge for false imprisonment domestic violence
  • 1 charge for false reports of commission of a crime
  • 1 charge for perjury
  • 1 charge for false official statements
  • 1 charge for throwing deadly missile at a person
  • 1 charge for child abuse
In the coming weeks we will be highlighting some disturbing releases through Orange County's taxpayer-funded pretrial services program for defendants charged with serious offenses and who have lengthy and serious criminal histories.  Our goal is to educate Orange County citizens on how their tax dollars are being used and to make them aware of the types of crimes people are being released on from jail using such dollars.

Public policy affects public safety.