Thursday, April 14, 2016

Bail Insurance Lobbyists Mislead Bail Insurance Companies?

I’ve spent a good many words explaining how the bail insurance lobbyists mislead jurisdictions, and how those misrepresentations hurt bail agents across America. Turns out I think they’re misleading the very companies who pay them, too.  

I started figuring this out a few months ago when an insurance lobbyist told a bunch of people in New Mexico that Jefferson County, Colorado (where I live), was being touted as some sort of pretrial success story. Then the lobbyist showed them some numbers trying to convince them that the way judges are setting bail in Jefferson County today has led to some bad outcomes. As often happens in other places when these lobbyists speak, the people in New Mexico asked me to explain it all, and so I told them the truth. The truth is that nobody is calling Jefferson County, Colorado, a pretrial success story. And if there are any bad outcomes today, it’s because of the lack of success when it comes to how Jefferson County continues to use money at bail.    

I should know, because I’m one of the three people who helped design the so-called Jefferson County Bail Project, which was basically the name we gave to a big project designed simply to try to do bail differently. But to understand everything, you need to know that the bail project was really made up of two parts. The first part – a fourteen week experiment to show that if judges set less secured money bonds the sky wouldn’t fall – was a success. The sky didn’t fall, proving, at least partially and during the fourteen weeks, that we didn’t need as much money as we thought we needed to do release and detention. In fact, we were able to release more people and keep the same court appearance rates and public safety rates by using less secured money bonds. There were other successes associated with the initial attempt to do things differently, such as better bail education, more purposeful release and detention decisions, etc., but the 14 week experiment was the main thing.   

The second part, though – the part where Jefferson County was supposed to actually implement the things they learned from the 14 week experiment – was a total failure when it came to deciding how to use money. In fact, I actually published a document that said the county failed to implement what it had learned. And yes, I actually used the word “failure,” which should have made it pretty clear.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were some things Jefferson County did permanently that were and still are successes; for example, it has defense attorneys at first advisements now, and it got rid of their bail schedule. But overall, when it came to actually implementing a process that would move away from using cash or surety bonds, Jefferson County simply didn’t do it. So when the bail lobbyist went to New Mexico with data showing that outcomes are somehow bad now, years later, my response to the people in New Mexico was, “Of course they’re bad now, because nobody ever implemented any of the money improvements that we tested. After the experiment, judges went right back to using cash and surety bonds just like before.”

And then, just about a week or so ago, a bail insurance company – not the lobbyist hired by the company, but the company itself – said the same thing. It said, “Jefferson County is being touted as a pretrial success story.” And I really started wondering, “Who in the world is doing all this touting?” It certainly isn’t me. It isn’t the two other people who helped design the project. And I’m pretty sure it isn’t anyone else in Jefferson County. I mean, really, there is absolutely nobody in America saying Jefferson County is some sort of success story when it comes to pretrial release and detention.

But then it dawned on me. The main bail insurance lobbyist is from Colorado, and when he interviewed for his new job, he must have told the insurance companies that the reason the three of us who designed the bail project are all doing national pretrial work is because people think the bail project was great. He must have said, “Hey, people are touting Jefferson County, but I’m from Colorado and I can find out the real story and prove that the bail project shouldn't be touted at all.” The problem is that he apparently never even read our published documents. If he had, he would have known that I, myself, said that it failed.

So here’s this lobbyist telling the companies that pay his salary that people are “touting” the Jefferson County bail project as some success – when they aren’t – just so he can justify foraging through some jail stats to try to shoot it down. Man, talk about messed up. I mean, when you realize that Jefferson County actually failed to implement, then the very numbers the lobbyist uses to try to trash the project actually hurt the industry. Don’t you see? I would expect the current numbers to be bad today because judges in Jefferson County kept on using cash and surety bonds.

This is just one more example of a bail insurance lobbyist saying whatever comes into his brain without even gathering the facts. Once again, bail agents, these guys aren’t doing you any favors.