Friday, October 7, 2016

Don’t Be Fooled, Bail Agents!

The bail insurance lobbyists have been trumpeting a letter from a judge in Illinois, in which he presented “the other side” of bail reform. Somebody sent me the letter pretty soon after he wrote it, and asked for my reply, which I then sent to everyone I knew in Illinois. He wrote 15 pages, I wrote about 15 pages.

So imagine my surprise when ABC said that the judge’s letter was a “devastating blow” to the “no money bail movement.” I mean, I read that letter, and it was full of the same lame arguments the bail insurance guys have been unsuccessfully peddling across the country for the last several years. In fact, there wasn’t a single new or unique thought. Really. Not one. You know, to me it kind of looked like the bail insurance guys wrote most of it. It even cites to Dennis Bartlett for goodness sake (I can’t imagine the bail lobbyists writing something for someone else to sign -- cough, cough . . . Paul Clement). This is no devastating blow. It’s just some judge. We knew there’d be some like him, and we know there’ll be more. Some of bail reform will require certain people to simply retire.

But my fundamental point is this. If this judge said anything new, or remotely inventive, or even something old in a better way, then you bail agents might have reason to believe that the insurance companies are on the right track. But the letter is none of that. It’s the same failed stuff. The stuff that didn’t work last week in Santa Clara. The stuff that didn’t hold any sway when the Conference of Chief Justices wrote its policy statement. The stuff that continues to get shot down everywhere it’s raised. The fact that they got a judge to say it is no big news. They’ve done that before, and that didn’t work either. These arguments will ultimately fail on the merits, not because they weren’t said by the right people.

I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and I can give you a list of about twenty arguments that the insurance guys have used that have failed. Most of them have been replaced with the current twenty, but those arguments also fail to take care of the fundamental problems people see in money bail. And I hope you all realize that because these arguments are coming from people who profit off the status quo, they demand a bit more finesse than these particular lobbyists are giving.  

Bail agents, the insurance lobbyists use things like this judge letter to make you think they’re making progress. But look around. Check out the PJI website and just look under the “recent news” section. Just today, I worked with California, New Mexico, Virginia, and Illinois. And believe me, the people in Illinois aren’t thinking that this one letter is any kind of “devastating blow.” Nobody else even knows it exists. Along with Illinois, the rest of the country is moving forward.

Don’t be fooled, bail agents. The bail lobbyists are inflating their efforts. They’re talking about minor victories while they continue to lose the big battles. And they’re definitely not thinking about your place in the “new” world of release and detention. Until you demand that they work on a new strategy, you’ll get bogus blogs talking about “devastating blows” and calling me and my friends names. I think you deserve much better from the people who make all their money off of you.