Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lesson One: Read the Whole Thing

The bail insurance company lobbyists recently highlighted a story in the Pueblo (Colorado) Chieftain about pretrial release. I think they highlighted the story because of its headline – “Cops: Dangerous Criminals Getting Out of Jail Too Early.” The problem is, though, the lobbyists apparently didn’t read the rest of the article.

Yes, the Pueblo Chief of Police said he thought that certain people were “getting out on lower levels of bond that should not get out” (a statement that only illuminates the flaws in Colorado’s legal scheme, which unwisely allows the release of extremely risky defendants with money), but he said the real problem was that the pretrial services agency WASN’T BEING RUN BY IN-HOUSE COUNTY EMPLOYEES. Yeah, that’s right. 

You see, the Chief and the Sheriff had both recommended that the County implement a pretrial services program run by the government. You know – those things the lobbyists like to call criminal welfare agencies and all that. The Chief and the Sheriff apparently wanted to model it after the one in Mesa County, Colorado, a government run operation that is quickly becoming a national model. Instead, the County awarded a contract to Rocky Mountain Management Offender Management Systems (RMOMS) a private, for profit pretrial services entity. According to the story, law enforcement’s big beef was that a third party outfit was doing the work that law enforcement apparently thought the government should be doing.     

So the first lesson from all this is that the insurance lobbyists apparently don’t even read beyond the headlines. The second is something I’ve been harping on for a long time: if bail agents want a future in pretrial release and detention in America, it’s going to be doing the same sort of thing that RMOMS is doing, which is exactly what the courts want – assessment and supervision of criminal defendants who are ordered released. There are only about 350-400 pretrial services agencies in America, but there are roughly 3,000 counties. And those counties want assessment and supervision, period. But it’s got to be supervision for both court appearance and public safety, it’s got to handle everyone, and it’s got to work despite dramatically falling bail amounts.

The bail insurance companies won’t help you with this, bail agents. There won’t be any need for insurance backing, so they’ll continue their rapidly failing fight for the status quo, while companies like RMOMS show what a true “public/private” relationship looks like. 

I’m only going to keep warning you for so long. Last week I was with representatives from nearly 15 state supreme courts (including a half dozen or so Chiefs), and they were are all talking about moving toward the new model – risk-based assessment and supervision, and less or no money. You can either be a part of it, or you can sit back and hope the insurance companies will stop the whole thing in its tracks. You decide.