Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Why the Bail Industry Will Soon Be Extinct

In a recent in-depth story on bail reform for NBC News, a bondsman recalled for the reporter the first day of "bail reform" in New Jersey. He saw defendant after defendant getting released pretrial without having to pay money, and he said:

"The idea of putting people in jail -- isn't that the f-king point of not committing a crime? You don't do it because there's a penalty. Now there's not a penalty. These smug jackoffs on the street are laughing."

The bail industry was started in 1898 as a way to help get bailable defendants out of jail, something the American system of justice couldn't figure out how to do without it. Over the past 100 years, the idea of "bail as release" has turned, slowly but decidedly in the minds of many in the industry, into bail as the beginning of the penalty (in the form of money) that should be assessed on people only accused of crime.

I see this notion in the quote, above, but I also see it in the statements of the head of PBUS and the writings of the various bail insurance companies in the U.S. It has permeated the entire for-profit bail industry.

Historically speaking, the bail industry has lost it's way. It has strayed from it's fundamental purpose, and that's why it will soon be extinct.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Bail Insurance Companies' "Historic Compromise" In New Mexico

On February 18, 2016, the American Bail Coalition trumpeted its "historic compromise" consisting of new constitutional language for New Mexico's bail provision. Sounded like a big win for the industry, right? But now I read that the bail industry is suing the New Mexico Supreme Court, saying that the new rules have devastated bail agents in that state.

So what happened?

In my mind it's pretty clear. ABC came into New Mexico to throw a wrench into things -- essentially to fight like it always does -- and ended up ticking a lot of people off. It didn't come in to try to figure out what the judges and others wanted. It came in to fight certain language that it thought would affect the for-profit bail companies' bottom line.

On top of that, I'm convinced that ABC didn't know that New Mexico is what I call a "court rules" state, which means that the bail laws there are implemented by court rule and not by statute. That's important, because you can't lobby a Supreme Court. If I were the industry's lobbyist, and if I decided (albeit wrongly) to fight everyone, I certainly would never have let that language make it through. I think ABC figured it would take care of everything later in the legislature. Problem is, that isn't the way it works in New Mexico.

This complete lack of understanding of bail by the bail industry continues today, In Harris County, the federal judge dropped a footnote saying that ABC didn't even know what the word "bail" meant. In the class action in New Mexico, the state bail association is making the uninformed and bogus claim that somehow the right to bail is a right to having a money bond, a claim that goes against the history, the law, and the pretrial research. I know of constitutional claims that might apply to a new preventive detention provision, but apparently the bail industry itself doesn't know what those are.

The commercial bail industry's strategy to fight everything, combined with a complete lack of understanding of the thing that they are fighting about, will mean the end of the industry in New Mexico.

Not the rules.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Bail Agents, You Lost Me

If you look at my blog over time, you’ll see that I started by trying to send messages to people in the bail reform movement concerning what I called the “basics” of bail, like the definitions of terms and phrases, etc.

Later, it sort of morphed into a platform to illuminate all of the manure that the bail insurance companies were spreading. Along the way, I figured I owed it to bail agents everywhere to let them know about the bail insurance antics and to tell those agents that there could be a place for them in bail reform, if they would only distance themselves from those companies. After all, I liked bail agents, and I sort of figured they were all like me – interested in the right to bail, liberty, and freedom. You know, all that stuff in our constitutions.  

Well, nobody’s listening. And so, bail agents, you’ve officially lost any support I might have given you in the past. After seeing a number of posts by PBUS, “The National Voice of the Bail Agent,” I now just assume you all agree with their strategy to fight everything, align themselves with idiots and publicity hounds, and turn the bail reform movement – something your industry could have helped with – into a mean circus. Today I see the insurance companies attacking New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels personally. How, exactly, does that help your cause and not turn judges against you everywhere?

Yesterday, I witnessed a video in which the illustrious leader of PBUS chased down a person with a microphone with someone shouting, “George Soros!” over and over. Based on what these guys are saying (and remember, PBUS is your “voice”), I’m now questioning whether you even care about the right to bail. Listening to PBUS, all you apparently care about is accountability (a punishment term) and making sure you don’t have to hug thugs. Frankly, if that’s true, you shouldn’t be in bail at all. You should all become prison guards. Do you realize how damaging it is for the people leading your opposition – PBUS and ABC – to basically abandon any notion that you care about the right to bail, what the Supreme Court called “the right to freedom before conviction?”   

I was the only person on this side of the movement who thought you had a place in the future of pretrial release and detention, and now I don’t. It’s my fault. I honestly thought bail bondsmen understood their own history and their potential to help America through this generation of reform. I’ve been writing this for years now, but nobody is listening, and so now I don’t think I owe your industry anything.

From now on, you guys get lumped in with the insurance weasels. And I’m personally going to spend all my spare time convincing judges to simply stop setting surety bonds. And if they simply stop setting surety bonds, don’t ever say you weren’t repeatedly warned.   

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bail Reform: Time to Face the Truth?

An insurance company lobbyist recently wrote he was frustrated that a California bail reform bill was moving forward. He listed all the reasons why he thought it shouldn't have passed out of Committee. The problem? The problem is that in a blog that included the word "truth" in it, most of his reasons were false. I'm only going to mention one example, but realize the when the insurance companies do this even once, they lose all credibility with the rest of the system.

This lobbyist said that one reason the bill shouldn't have been voted out was because the Committee had received a letter from people in Jefferson County, Colorado (my county), saying that they tried bail reform and then decided it didn't work. ABC got that letter written mostly to do something that would make me look bad. But that isn't the real problem. The real problem is that everything in the letter was wrong and misleading. So wrong and misleading, in fact, that a judge in Jefferson County -- indeed, the judge tasked with making changes to the system both in Jefferson County and statewide -- wrote a declaration refuting the letter. What did she write? Basically, that the people who wrote the letter  weren't even there when we worked on bail, didn't know what they were talking about, and were flat out wrong and misleading about their conclusions.

So, when the insurance companies passed it out in Maryland, we sent the declaration and Maryland ignored the letter. When they passed it out in Harris County, we sent the declaration, and, well, you know what happened there. So in California, I can only assume that the people weren't fooled by that letter either. I personally sent the declaration to a variety of people in California. And I'm sending it everywhere else.

So the message from this one single thing to the people in California and elsewhere is this: the insurance companies are lying to us. Bang. Credibility shot, and bill moves on because, well, "If they lied to us about this . . .  "

I could go through the rest of the reasons this particular lobbyist listed -- like New Jersey, Cathy Lanier, and people who oppose it, but you'd just see the same pattern. The fact is that the bill is moving forward not because the California reps aren't representing the people. It's moving forward because the bail insurance companies lie like rugs.

Now it could be that this particular bail insurance dude simply didn't realize the truth because ABC lied to him, too. It makes sense because it's the insurance companies that pay ABC to exist. But probably not. I think their strategy is to win at any cost. It's scorched earth, and in the end scorched earth burns everyone, including bail agents.

Do you wonder why, in places like DC, New Jersey, and NM, they leave money and commercial sureties in the law but judges simply stop using them? That's the consequence of all those lies.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Yesterday Was Interesting

Here is an opinion piece in the New York Times from Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Rand Paul about eliminating money bail. Oh yeah, they also introduced a bipartisan bill. 

Rand Paul? Isn't he, like, one of the most conservative people we know? Yep, that's because, at it's core, being conservative means following the constitution, both federal (as in Equal Protection and Due Process), and state (as in those things plus any particular right to bail provision). And bail reform is mostly all about forcing people to follow the state and federal constitutions. 

To you bail agents who fully believe in what you are doing, then you should rejoice that we are slowly forcing government actors to follow the law. To those of you insurance groups, like ABC and PBUS, who want to spin this movement into a political one, then this ought to be a bit confounding. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Join PBUS?

So some insurance dude is trying to get people to join PBUS. Makes sense. He wouldn't make any money at all if bail agents didn't do all the work for him. That obviously extends to groups like PBUS.

My advice is simple, and completely different. Bail agents, you need to break free from ABC and the insurance-infested PBUS before it's too late. Their strategy -- to fight bail reform -- is not the strategy that keeps you in business.

Ever since I first started looking into it 10 years ago, I realized that bail reform was inevitable. INEVITABLE. Get it? It was always going to happen. And now it's happening, and all the insurance people can do is fight. That won't work. If you've read even a fraction of my posts, if you've ever read any of my papers, you'd know why.

I know virtually everything ABC and PBUS are doing. I'm not kidding -- people tell me everything for some reason. And everything they're doing -- from sniveling around DOJ and filing weird class action lawsuits to hiring a PR firm and fabricating news stories for bogus websites -- simply isn't going to work. People want to change, and they need help with the changes. They don't want a fight.

There's only one thing that I identified as a "genius move" that would forestall bail reform for about 20 years, and the insurance dudes actually did sort of the opposite of that move recently (remember, I said I'd tell people what the "genius move" was if I ever saw it happen). So there's a smart strategy, but the insurance companies do the opposite.

Likewise, in the Harris County opinion, the judge had to tell ABC that it didn't even know what the word "bail" meant. So  there you have it; an incompetent group with the opposite of a smart strategy.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a video of a committee in Philadelphia ripping on an insurance guy, a bail agent, and some dude from New Jersey. At the end, one of the committee members said to the agent something like: "We're changing. Have you done anything at all to try to adapt to that change?" Another good question would have been, "Is there anything you all can do to help us change?"

Those are good questions. The answers, of course, are, "No, because the insurance dudes said I should fight everything."

Join PBUS? No way.