Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bail Bond Trends

The corporate bail insurance lobbyists recently testified to Colorado’s Senate Judiciary Committee that a there was a national trend toward using for-profit bondsmen and cited to Wisconsin as proof. The problem is that Wisconsin has once again decided that bondsmen should play no part in its justice system.

Instead, the trend that I see (and that others should note) is that the corporate bail insurance company lobbyists will do virtually anything in their power to increase profits, including slipping an enabling provision into a state budget bill in the middle of the night, and then hoping it will go through so that they can mislead other states about their industry.

Nobody in Wisconsin, save a couple of good friends of ALEC and a few oily characters who like to use ALEC as their personal platform, wanted bondsmen back in. And fortunately for Wisconsin, the Governor listened.

Good for you, Wisconsin!  See you soon! 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Criminal Justice, Redemption, and Empathy

Here’s a story about criminal justice, redemption, and empathy. The title is, “In America, Criminal Justice System Needs Redemption More Than the Prisoners.”

It tells the story of a prosecutor who slowly began seeing how his Christian worldview conflicted with how he was treating the least among us by traveling down the traditional criminal justice path of mass incarceration in the name of justice. Really, it’s a story about empathy, because anyone who can truly empathize with a criminal defendant cannot help but see the person who is capable of a better life, and who should be forgiven and extended a community’s helping hand at living in society. This prosecutor came to a sort of epiphany when he actually entered into a prison and started teaching college classes to inmates. According to the prosecutor, Preston Shipp, interacting with these inmates caused him some degree of cognitive dissonance:

When the only information you receive about a person is the worst thing they’ve ever done, it’s very easy to regard them as less human. How can I reconcile the job I was asked to do as a prosecutor with my faith in Jesus, who came proclaiming release for prisoners?

How indeed? In this case, he couldn’t, and so he quit his job as prosecutor and now advocates for criminal justice reform. The article talks about a documentary you can watch describing his redemptive transformation.

So what does this have to do with bail? Well, apart from the idea that judges and lawyers would benefit from the occasional trip inside the jail or prison they send people to, I have seen a great lack of empathy in the criminal justice system for pretrial defendants. This lack of empathy is likely expected. At a typical bail hearing, there is often only a charge and the police affidavit along with a criminal history to guide everyone. These documents tend overwhelmingly to cast the defendants as bad people who did bad things. Still, these people are human, just like you and me, and if we saw even a little bit of ourselves in them, we might not be so quick to lock them up or otherwise make their lives miserable before their trials.  

Don’t get me wrong. I care immensely about victims of crime. On more than one occasion I’ve been the victim of a crime, and I have close relatives who have been victims of violent crimes. But I think that empathy allows us to care about both victims and the people who stand accused.   

I’ll quit preaching now, but I have to say that I don’t think I would even need to be working at bail reform if everyone showed just a little more empathy. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Confused About What Bounty Hunters Actually Do?

We used to call them bounty hunters, but I think I like the term “agent” better because it sounds fancy and makes you feel like you're gambling in Morocco. He says he’s setting the record straight about what these agents actually do because people are confused.

Frankly, I don’t think I’m all that confused. This next story,, is pretty clear about what these two “fugitive recovery agents” in Florida actually did: they chased a guy, got into a scuffle with a dog, shot the guy, and got arrested for aggravated assault (the defendant was only facing charges for disorderly conduct, by the way).

The more stories I read about people trying to correct misconceptions about what they do, the more I think that they aren’t really misconceptions, you know?