Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sandra Bland: Her Bail Amount “Was Not Significant”

No, I didn’t say this – a bail insurance company lobbyist did. The quote, in full, is actually, “The issue of bail had nothing to do with this person’s suicide, in my opinion. The amount was not significant and the family was working with a bondsman to post bail.”

This gives you a bit of insight into the people behind our traditional money bail system. Bail insurance company lobbyists could really care less about the humans who bear the brunt of a broken system of bail in America. Let’s break this quote down.

“Not significant?” Well, it kept her in jail, so I think that’s pretty significant. The most interesting conversations I have with commercial bail people happen when they talk about amounts that are “significant” or “reasonable.” Some time ago, a commercial bail guy came to our local county justice meeting and, with a completely straight face, said, “The other day I saw a judge set bail at $50,000, which is reasonable, but another judge set another bail at only $500, and that’s just wrong.” To a bail insurance company lobbyist, amounts are reasonable when they can make money off of them, and they’re unreasonable when they can’t. And only an overpaid lobbyist could ever say that a $5,000 financial condition isn’t significant.  

“Working with a bondsman?” Well, there’s an article out there saying that some bondsman actually called Sandra’s mother, but that was it. I assume the phone call went something like this: “Your daughter’s bail is $5,000, so to get her out of jail you’ll have to come up with a $500 non-refundable fee for me and then put up some collateral to cover the rest.” These kinds of conversations happen every day across America, and they’re why it takes an average of 10 days for people to bond out through commercial sureties. And in those ten days, research has found, a lot of really bad things can happen.

“The issue of bail had nothing to do with [Sandra’s] suicide?” The bail insurance guy says that “there were clearly other issues [going] on in this person’s life.” What kind of issues? Everybody has issues going on in their lives, and no matter how significant those issues are, you can bet that if the person is stuck in a cage, incarceration is issue number one.  

This is the problem with bail insurance companies – the groups who lobby hard to keep the commercial money bail system alive in America – they simply don’t have any compassion or common sense. It’s a problem that we’ve had with this industry ever since we created it in 1900. And it’s a big problem in Texas, which is kind of an enclave for bail insurance companies and the lackeys that these insurance people hire to try to muddle and spin the tragedy of money bail.

Let’s face it. There’re at least three big issues that need to be addressed concerning the death of Sandra Bland: (1) her arrest; (2) the nature of her detention; and (3) the money bail that kept her in jail. Because bail insurance companies make money on number three, they’ll be hoping that everyone – including you – will focus only on numbers one and two.

Don’t do it.