Pre-Trial Release Misconceptions

Pre-Trial Release is hurting the Country

February 21, 2019
Scott MacLean

Private Bail is being attacked across this country utilizing exaggerated misconceptions, misinterpretation of data, and improper assumptions. I wanted to peel back the onion on this to provide a little insight and to incite discussion.

Some of the issues are the relationship of poverty to pretrial detention, recidivism rates, crimes committed on pre-trial release, and the actual costs born by both the defendant and society.

What is the relationship of poverty and pre-trial detention? There are many indigent defendants held in jail pre-trial, longer than they would have been had they been convicted. Why? The argument is that they cannot afford bail, cannot support their family or maintain employment. Nowhere in that argument does it speak of accountability. The argument assumes that they are indeed poor, employed and actively supporting their family. The facts are case specific and do not stand a broad-brush generalization. Many are in jail because they have failed to appear previously, have burned all family members who have bailed them out in the past, and do not support their families with the tenacity that they support a drug habit.

Does pre-trial release reduce recidivism or failures to appear (FTAs)? On the contrary, the mixed message it sends to defendants promotes the inclination to continue illegal behavior. If the court does not take my case seriously, why should I? Anytime there is no individual responsible for the defendant’s appearance in court, there is no motivation to appear in court. This also applies to signature bonds, which allows the news to report a subject is released on bond and the unknowing public is satisfied, not aware that nobody is responsible for the defendant. A signature bond requires no money or responsible party, only the defendant being responsible for himself, with a cash penalty for failing their obligation. Can somebody show me statistics where these penalties are collected from defendants as aggressively as they are from bondsmen? I have another question, if they are already determined to be indigent, who expects them to be able to pay an FTA on an appearance bond?

What are the true costs to the defendant and to society with the elimination of private bail? With a bondsman, the defendant pays the bail amount and nothing more, provided they appear in court. This also includes an indemnitor, somebody determined to be financially responsible for the defendant. Together with the bondsman, the open communication ensures the defendant’s appearance in court, unless the communication breaks down. With pre-trial release, the defendant is responsible to pay all monitoring fees, drug court fees, drug testing fees, drug and alcohol awareness class fees, all prior to being found guilty. These costs often exceed the cost of private bail to the defendant. Incidentally, the costs for pre-trial release were transferred from the private sector to you the tax payer, and don’t forget the cost for chasing wanted fugitives, you taxpayers were awarded that too!

This discussion needs to be held publicly, because unless you or a family member have had a brush with the law, you are completely unaware. Next time, we will discuss the trial and the push to accept plea deals. There are numerous cases with innocent people that have been brow beaten into taking a plea deal, just to end their court case.

See you next time and I look forward to your comments.

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