Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bail, Insurance Companies, Politicians, and Greed

In the story, "Bail Bond Bill Will Create Debtor’s Prisons,” by Bruce Murphy, he asks, “Why are Republicans pushing a bill opposed almost unanimously by criminal justice professionals?”

Why, indeed? But Wisconsin is not alone. Across America, big insurance company lobbyists are pushing bills designed to increase their profit – criminal justice be damned – by backing bills to insert for-profit bail into the system, or to limit judges in using methods of release that don’t involve sending business the insurance companies' way. In a quote from District Attorney John Chisholm in the article, “The return of commercial bail bonds, will primarily benefit out-of-state interests, the large bail-bond corporations” motivated “purely by financial interests” at the expense of public safety. 

Oh good. Let’s pass it.

But it’s worse than that. I believe that the bail insurance companies want back into Wisconsin just so they can say that it represents a “national trend” toward using for-profit bail. In fact, I was recently at a Senate hearing in another state where the bail lobbyists said that very thing. Never mind that virtually no one in criminal justice, from police to judges, feels that for-profit bail has any meaningful value. Never mind that the bail industry tried to get into Wisconsin before, and failed. Wisconsin is just being used to further the interests of the big bail insurance companies. They have the money, and thus they have access to politicians who, strangely, will pass criminal justice laws that the whole criminal justice system opposes.  

There was a guy at the Senate hearing who said that he teaches on “best practices” at bail. Unfortunately, he is paid quite well to say that for-profit bail is a best practice. He is wrong, of course, and hopefully Wisconsin will rally together to keep this corporate interest out of criminal justice. Believe me, once they are in Wisconsin, the state will see a barrage of new laws each year designed to continue increasing the bail industry profits. It will see a new regulatory bureaucracy necessary to watch over the “problem child” of regulated occupations. Finally, and most unfortunately, it will see unnecessary pretrial detention of those who simply cannot afford to pay the bondsmen’s fee.

Scholars have openly condemned the for-profit bail industry practically since its inception. Wisconsin should be proud to know that it was famously enlightened when it abolished the practice in the 70’s.

Read the story. It shows how ALEC, the various bail insurance companies, and a few lobbyists are using Wisconsin as a pawn in their American bail strategy – just so they can make a buck.