Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What a Difference Five Years Makes!

Back in 2012, the bail insurance companies released a "PR Web" article saying, "Judges Confirm That Bail Bond Agents Play an Important Role in the Criminal Justice System." You see, some bail insurance dudes apparently went to the American Judges Association Conference that year, conducted a "survey," and concluded that 90% of judges say bail agents play an important role. The article is fascinating, as the insurance dude describes handing out his unbiased survey along with several hundred "I Love My Judge" buttons. I think that's how Pew does it, right?

Oh well, cut to 2017, and you can read the new American Judge's Association Resolution Number 2, in which the association urges judges to, among other things, "call for the elimination of commercially secured bonds at any time during the pretrial phase."

Ouch.

So, I think the lesson is twofold. First, the ABC/PBUS strategy of fighting everything is really backfiring. Second, don't necessarily believe what you read from the bail insurance dudes.  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bail Insurance Companies’ New Media Strategy – “Fake News”



As much as I hate the term, here’s yet another blog about “fake news,” only because the bail insurance companies don’t have the real kind.  

I was reading this this story about so-called fake news, and it focuses on a particular city in Veles, Yugoslavia, that has made fake news a sort-of cottage industry. According to the story, over 100 bogus websites were tracked to this one city, mostly run by young twenty-somethings hoping to make a few bucks when people merely click to read past the provocative headline. For those of you not paying attention, fake news is generally described as propaganda consisting of misleading information designed either to spread a message or make a few bucks. You make money by “baiting” people with a sensational or provocative headline, and then by getting them to click on it. It’s called “clickbait.”

This particular article focuses on one of the young dudes who creates fake news, but also on a guy named Mirko Ceselkoski, who the article calls the “clickbait coach,” and who used to specialize in websites spreading celebrity gossip and discussing muscle cars. Today, Mirko estimates that he helps about 100 youngsters – the article calls them his “pupils” – operating U.S. political news sites.

But his advice on how to create those sites is what really caught my eye. He said he tries to teach people to pick a story that is already trending somewhat, and then make it sensational, mostly by creating a really shocking headline. “The title is the most important part,” he said. Then, he said, you need to try to make your website look professional by mimicking legitimate sites with rolling banners and phrases like “breaking news” on them. Apparently the title of the site is key, too, as many of them use the actual word “news,” which, I suppose, makes people think they’re, well, legitimate news sites.

And then it hit me! That’s exactly what the bail insurance companies are doing. The title? Got it – says “U.S. Bail Reform News,” so it even has the word “news” in it just in case we weren’t sure. Professional look? Yeah, looks pretty professional and uses the “breaking news” phrase a lot. Titles of the articles? Here’s one: “San Francisco, CA – Suspected child molester FREE TO GO after Judge Joseph Quinn overrules bail setting.” Yep, pretty sensational, and it even names a judge in it so it’s nice and personal. Of course, the article itself never mentions that the same suspected molester would also have been FREE TO GO if he had to pay money to a bondsman, and that if he went out and molested another child, neither he nor the bondsman would forfeit any money. Details.

So, even though I hate the phrase “fake news,” I’m going to have to get used to saying it because the bail insurance companies are now doing it with gusto. And really, this isn’t new. Back in 2011 or so, I documented a speech in which a bail insurance guy said he was putting out information under another group’s title because “we didn’t want it to look like it came from a bail bonding organization – we wanted it to look like it came from some neutral, political source.” And just this year, the insurance companies got caught using another dubious news site to spread misleading information about New Jersey Bail reform.

By the way, it’s been a while since I mentioned the greedy weasels doing all this stuff – you know, the ones who don’t care if poor people stay in jail or if dangerous people pay their way out. Plus, a couple of them have come and gone, so here are the current members of ABC:

AIA Surety
American Surety Company
Bankers Surety (Bankers Financial Corporation)
Black Diamond Insurance Company
Financial Casualty and Surety – A new one! Welcome!
Lexington National Insurance Corporation
Sun Surety Insurance Company
Universal Fire and Casualty Insurance Company
Whitecap Surety


So, bail insurance dudes, because your mothers probably taught you not to lie, and because “fake news” is just a weasel’s way of lying, you get the Weasel Pic! 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Bail Industry Loses Hard in New Mexico

ABC and PBUS decided on a new strategy lately -- suing the states doing bail reform. It must have seemed like a really good idea at the big PBUS meeting, right?

Yesterday, the judge issued an order denying the industry's request for preliminary injunction in the New Mexico case. And man, that judge denied it hard.

Each substantive claim by the industry is quickly and succinctly knocked down -- sometimes in only one or two double-spaced paragraphs. That's an omen of things to come if and when the industry decides to go to trial. That is, unless you all think the same substantive claim will somehow become rational or legally meritorious between now and then.

Keep up the great work ABC and PBUS! The more you sue the people doing bail reform, the less likely it is that anyone else will even consider including you in any solution.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Bail Insurance Companies Hire New Media Guy!



This may seem like a gimme, but wouldn't you think that if a bunch of billionaire insurance companies wanted a media guy, they'd hire someone with experience in big-time media work or at least a graduate from a top American journalism school? Yes, you'd think.

But instead, they hire an ex-bondsman from New Jersey, whose expertise is a couple of websites that post stories under the genre of "Dangerous Bank Robber Free to Go on a Handshake!"

Mainstream media has already figured out the major flaw in the thinking behind these stories: in the previous world, bail agents would be quite happy releasing dangerous people so long as they pay a bit of money. As I've written about a million times before, money won't keep you safe.

So why him? I mean the posts won't work at all in New Jersey. In fact, the industry is gone there and if NJ cares about dangerous defendants, they have the ability to lock them up without money. And they probably won't work in New Mexico -- like I said, ABC screwed up in not knowing about the fact that NM was a "court rules" state. And it looks like they won't work very well anywhere else; everyone who studies bail quickly realizes the flaw in the bail industry's attempt to spin things concerning money toward public safety when money has nothing to do with public safety.

The answer is that this guy and his posts are designed to keep the rest of you bail agents from jumping ship. His entire shtick is "Bail Reform is Failing," and "Hey Look, We're Winning!" That's the stuff ABC has been trying to sell you now for 10 years through three or four different lobbyists. Think about it. Do you feel like you're winning this thing? As long as you think you are, you'll just keep sending in all that money.

I've been telling people for 10 years that bail reform is inevitable. That means there's no turning back. There's no "losing momentum," as ABC says. The only question now is how it will shake out when it comes to moneyless detention. I've told bail agents for years how they could be a part of the future of American pretrial release and detention, but they haven't listened.

ABC says they hired the guy "to act as a liaison between ABC and bail agents" and to "improve efforts when it comes to media and social media."

By hiring this particular guy, though, ABC is showing no real attempt to influence legitimate media. So the main reason must be the liaison part. But don't be fooled; this hire is mostly designed to keep you bail agents in the dark. I assume you'll start seeing the same sorts of posts in every state, and if that's all you read you'll be tempted to hang in there and keep sending your money to the insurance companies instead of forcing them to change their failing strategy, which has no basis in reality.

In fact, if you keep clinging to ABC and the insurance companies that are behind it, then I predict that on that day that the very last bail bondsman shuts his doors, you'll still read a Facebook post by usbailreformnews, sponsored by ABC, that says, "Bail Reform Failed! Hey Look, We Won!"

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Tipping Point in Bail Reform?

I should have spent a bit more time talking about the Conference of Chief Justices’ brief in the Harris County case because it really is remarkable. You can find it here.

Remember that Harris County was sued in federal court over its bail practices, which were built upon the Texas bail laws. In a preliminary injunction, the federal district court judge essentially said that the way Harris County was using money bail violated the U.S. Constitution.

Now normally if that happened in any other area of the law, you’d see all the other states join together with Texas and say, “Whoa, now, we don’t need a federal court telling us how to do stuff – back off and we’ll take care of it in our court system.” And in most other areas of the law, the federal court might think, “Well, maybe I should just defer to the states on this one.”

But when it comes to bail and no bail, the Conference of Chief Justices – made up of the chief justice in every state, D.C., and American territories – essentially said the opposite. It said, “No, we actually need some help from the federal court because, “Despite general consensus and some notable reform, the promise of equal pretrial treatment for indigent defendants remains elusive.” In fact, it said, “Current bail reform practices will remain largely stalled pending clearly articulated constitutional principles that protect public safety and the pretrial rights of indigent defendants.”

The CCJ wrote that technically it wasn’t taking any sides, but then it came right out and wrote: “The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the use of monetary bail that results in the detention of indigent defendants solely due to inability to pay.” There’s a reason why ABC went on a rant after the CCJ filed its brief, basically calling the justices liars (or “half” liars), blind to the truth, and arrogant (by the way, great strategy, ABC!). Of all the amicus briefs, this is the one that flattens the bail industry. This brief might irritate you, ABC, but you brought it on yourself by fighting the justices at every turn. This generation of reform could have been defined by the bail industry helping the states and the chief justices to find the answers; instead, you all turned it into a war with you versus everyone else. 

To me, the only thing holding back the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals from affirming the district court would be some concern that it might be infringing on an area that the states felt they could handle. In this brief, the CCJ says, “Go ahead – you’re not infringing and we actually need it.”

If there’s a tipping point in this generation of American bail reform, then August 9, 2017, the day when every chief justice in America asked the federal courts to set limits on how the states use money bail, might just be it.



Sunday, August 27, 2017

So Much Happening . . .

First, here's an op-ed from the Editorial Board of the New York Times, talking about the lousy arguments the bail industry is using to keep money bail in place. A couple of gems from the editorial: (1) "Pretty much everyone who spends time examining the American system of cash bail comes away with the same conclusion: It's unjust, expensive, and ineffective, even counterproductive." (2) "But the profit motive can be a powerful bulwark against the truth."

Indeed.

Second, here's a single stop on my website where you can get all the briefs arguing against money bail in the Harris County case. Those in the bail industry trumpeting a brief signed by a few AGs might just note the brief signed by 67 current and former prosecutors and AGs representing 30 states and the District of Columbia. But wait, there's more -- defense attorneys through NACDL, religious leaders, the Cato Institute, NAPSA and PJI, the very conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation and Right on Crime, police and sheriffs, the American Bar Association, the Constitution Accountability Center, and even a single Harris County judge writing that he has proven that he can set bail lawfully without money.  

The absolute worst for the industry, though, is the Conference of Chief Justices, which filed a rare brief in support of the appellee (that's the person who was locked up due to money). The CCJ is made up of every Chief Justice in all 50 states and the American territories. I don't even have to tell you what they said; the fact that they filed should give you a pretty severe ache in your stomach.

By the way, I didn't have enough tabs on my website for the Harris County stuff, so I deleted my "donate now" tab. It may come to a surprise to you if you listen to the bail insurance companies, but I've never received a dime from that website. Not even one penny. In fact, while I'm on the topic, I would estimate that I did about 75-80% of what I did the last year for free.

If you're in the for-profit bail industry, the fact that I do most of this for free -- and that I would do all of it for free if needed -- should freak you out just a bit.

Because I'm not alone.




Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Why the Bail Industry Will Soon Be Extinct

In a recent in-depth story on bail reform for NBC News, a bondsman recalled for the reporter the first day of "bail reform" in New Jersey. He saw defendant after defendant getting released pretrial without having to pay money, and he said:

"The idea of putting people in jail -- isn't that the f-king point of not committing a crime? You don't do it because there's a penalty. Now there's not a penalty. These smug jackoffs on the street are laughing."

The bail industry was started in 1898 as a way to help get bailable defendants out of jail, something the American system of justice couldn't figure out how to do without it. Over the past 100 years, the idea of "bail as release" has turned, slowly but decidedly in the minds of many in the industry, into bail as the beginning of the penalty (in the form of money) that should be assessed on people only accused of crime.

I see this notion in the quote, above, but I also see it in the statements of the head of PBUS and the writings of the various bail insurance companies in the U.S. It has permeated the entire for-profit bail industry.

Historically speaking, the bail industry has lost it's way. It has strayed from it's fundamental purpose, and that's why it will soon be extinct.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Bail Insurance Companies' "Historic Compromise" In New Mexico

On February 18, 2016, the American Bail Coalition trumpeted its "historic compromise" consisting of new constitutional language for New Mexico's bail provision. Sounded like a big win for the industry, right? But now I read that the bail industry is suing the New Mexico Supreme Court, saying that the new rules have devastated bail agents in that state.

So what happened?

In my mind it's pretty clear. ABC came into New Mexico to throw a wrench into things -- essentially to fight like it always does -- and ended up ticking a lot of people off. It didn't come in to try to figure out what the judges and others wanted. It came in to fight certain language that it thought would affect the for-profit bail companies' bottom line.

On top of that, I'm convinced that ABC didn't know that New Mexico is what I call a "court rules" state, which means that the bail laws there are implemented by court rule and not by statute. That's important, because you can't lobby a Supreme Court. If I were the industry's lobbyist, and if I decided (albeit wrongly) to fight everyone, I certainly would never have let that language make it through. I think ABC figured it would take care of everything later in the legislature. Problem is, that isn't the way it works in New Mexico.

This complete lack of understanding of bail by the bail industry continues today, In Harris County, the federal judge dropped a footnote saying that ABC didn't even know what the word "bail" meant. In the class action in New Mexico, the state bail association is making the uninformed and bogus claim that somehow the right to bail is a right to having a money bond, a claim that goes against the history, the law, and the pretrial research. I know of constitutional claims that might apply to a new preventive detention provision, but apparently the bail industry itself doesn't know what those are.

The commercial bail industry's strategy to fight everything, combined with a complete lack of understanding of the thing that they are fighting about, will mean the end of the industry in New Mexico.

Not the rules.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Bail Agents, You Lost Me

If you look at my blog over time, you’ll see that I started by trying to send messages to people in the bail reform movement concerning what I called the “basics” of bail, like the definitions of terms and phrases, etc.

Later, it sort of morphed into a platform to illuminate all of the manure that the bail insurance companies were spreading. Along the way, I figured I owed it to bail agents everywhere to let them know about the bail insurance antics and to tell those agents that there could be a place for them in bail reform, if they would only distance themselves from those companies. After all, I liked bail agents, and I sort of figured they were all like me – interested in the right to bail, liberty, and freedom. You know, all that stuff in our constitutions.  

Well, nobody’s listening. And so, bail agents, you’ve officially lost any support I might have given you in the past. After seeing a number of posts by PBUS, “The National Voice of the Bail Agent,” I now just assume you all agree with their strategy to fight everything, align themselves with idiots and publicity hounds, and turn the bail reform movement – something your industry could have helped with – into a mean circus. Today I see the insurance companies attacking New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels personally. How, exactly, does that help your cause and not turn judges against you everywhere?

Yesterday, I witnessed a video in which the illustrious leader of PBUS chased down a person with a microphone with someone shouting, “George Soros!” over and over. Based on what these guys are saying (and remember, PBUS is your “voice”), I’m now questioning whether you even care about the right to bail. Listening to PBUS, all you apparently care about is accountability (a punishment term) and making sure you don’t have to hug thugs. Frankly, if that’s true, you shouldn’t be in bail at all. You should all become prison guards. Do you realize how damaging it is for the people leading your opposition – PBUS and ABC – to basically abandon any notion that you care about the right to bail, what the Supreme Court called “the right to freedom before conviction?”   

I was the only person on this side of the movement who thought you had a place in the future of pretrial release and detention, and now I don’t. It’s my fault. I honestly thought bail bondsmen understood their own history and their potential to help America through this generation of reform. I’ve been writing this for years now, but nobody is listening, and so now I don’t think I owe your industry anything.


From now on, you guys get lumped in with the insurance weasels. And I’m personally going to spend all my spare time convincing judges to simply stop setting surety bonds. And if they simply stop setting surety bonds, don’t ever say you weren’t repeatedly warned.   

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bail Reform: Time to Face the Truth?

An insurance company lobbyist recently wrote he was frustrated that a California bail reform bill was moving forward. He listed all the reasons why he thought it shouldn't have passed out of Committee. The problem? The problem is that in a blog that included the word "truth" in it, most of his reasons were false. I'm only going to mention one example, but realize the when the insurance companies do this even once, they lose all credibility with the rest of the system.

This lobbyist said that one reason the bill shouldn't have been voted out was because the Committee had received a letter from people in Jefferson County, Colorado (my county), saying that they tried bail reform and then decided it didn't work. ABC got that letter written mostly to do something that would make me look bad. But that isn't the real problem. The real problem is that everything in the letter was wrong and misleading. So wrong and misleading, in fact, that a judge in Jefferson County -- indeed, the judge tasked with making changes to the system both in Jefferson County and statewide -- wrote a declaration refuting the letter. What did she write? Basically, that the people who wrote the letter  weren't even there when we worked on bail, didn't know what they were talking about, and were flat out wrong and misleading about their conclusions.

So, when the insurance companies passed it out in Maryland, we sent the declaration and Maryland ignored the letter. When they passed it out in Harris County, we sent the declaration, and, well, you know what happened there. So in California, I can only assume that the people weren't fooled by that letter either. I personally sent the declaration to a variety of people in California. And I'm sending it everywhere else.

So the message from this one single thing to the people in California and elsewhere is this: the insurance companies are lying to us. Bang. Credibility shot, and bill moves on because, well, "If they lied to us about this . . .  "

I could go through the rest of the reasons this particular lobbyist listed -- like New Jersey, Cathy Lanier, and people who oppose it, but you'd just see the same pattern. The fact is that the bill is moving forward not because the California reps aren't representing the people. It's moving forward because the bail insurance companies lie like rugs.

Now it could be that this particular bail insurance dude simply didn't realize the truth because ABC lied to him, too. It makes sense because it's the insurance companies that pay ABC to exist. But probably not. I think their strategy is to win at any cost. It's scorched earth, and in the end scorched earth burns everyone, including bail agents.

Do you wonder why, in places like DC, New Jersey, and NM, they leave money and commercial sureties in the law but judges simply stop using them? That's the consequence of all those lies.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Yesterday Was Interesting


Here is an opinion piece in the New York Times from Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Rand Paul about eliminating money bail. Oh yeah, they also introduced a bipartisan bill. 

Rand Paul? Isn't he, like, one of the most conservative people we know? Yep, that's because, at it's core, being conservative means following the constitution, both federal (as in Equal Protection and Due Process), and state (as in those things plus any particular right to bail provision). And bail reform is mostly all about forcing people to follow the state and federal constitutions. 

To you bail agents who fully believe in what you are doing, then you should rejoice that we are slowly forcing government actors to follow the law. To those of you insurance groups, like ABC and PBUS, who want to spin this movement into a political one, then this ought to be a bit confounding. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Join PBUS?

So some insurance dude is trying to get people to join PBUS. Makes sense. He wouldn't make any money at all if bail agents didn't do all the work for him. That obviously extends to groups like PBUS.

My advice is simple, and completely different. Bail agents, you need to break free from ABC and the insurance-infested PBUS before it's too late. Their strategy -- to fight bail reform -- is not the strategy that keeps you in business.

Ever since I first started looking into it 10 years ago, I realized that bail reform was inevitable. INEVITABLE. Get it? It was always going to happen. And now it's happening, and all the insurance people can do is fight. That won't work. If you've read even a fraction of my posts, if you've ever read any of my papers, you'd know why.

I know virtually everything ABC and PBUS are doing. I'm not kidding -- people tell me everything for some reason. And everything they're doing -- from sniveling around DOJ and filing weird class action lawsuits to hiring a PR firm and fabricating news stories for bogus websites -- simply isn't going to work. People want to change, and they need help with the changes. They don't want a fight.

There's only one thing that I identified as a "genius move" that would forestall bail reform for about 20 years, and the insurance dudes actually did sort of the opposite of that move recently (remember, I said I'd tell people what the "genius move" was if I ever saw it happen). So there's a smart strategy, but the insurance companies do the opposite.

Likewise, in the Harris County opinion, the judge had to tell ABC that it didn't even know what the word "bail" meant. So  there you have it; an incompetent group with the opposite of a smart strategy.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a video of a committee in Philadelphia ripping on an insurance guy, a bail agent, and some dude from New Jersey. At the end, one of the committee members said to the agent something like: "We're changing. Have you done anything at all to try to adapt to that change?" Another good question would have been, "Is there anything you all can do to help us change?"

Those are good questions. The answers, of course, are, "No, because the insurance dudes said I should fight everything."

Join PBUS? No way.


Monday, July 10, 2017

History of Bail


People have been citing to our History of Bail paper that's contained on the PJI website. That's okay, but that document was just designed to give an overview of the history, which was needed back in about 2010.

If you need to know bail's history in a bit more detail for any reason (or for some better reflection concerning historical trends and what they mean), but especially if you're writing a court opinion or brief or something, look at the history sections in my Fundamental's paper, my Money paper, and my Model Bail Laws paper, which are all on my website.

The history of bail shows that "bail" equals release, that "no bail" equals detention, and that if anything interferes with these two notions, bail reform happens. Secured money bonds interfere with both bail as release and no bail as detention. That's why I started telling people in about 2007 that bail reform in America was inevitable.


Monday, July 3, 2017

NCSC Trends in State Courts


Here's a link to the National Center for State Courts' Trends Magazine, the publication put out once a year to educate courts and judges across America about big things affecting the judiciary.

As noted by it's website, "NCSC is the organization courts turn to for authoritative knowledge and information, because its efforts are directed by the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators, and other associations of judicial leaders."  

My article on the inevitability of bail reform focuses on how judges are more involved now than in any previous generation of reform.

You'll note that there are no articles written by bail insurance companies -- rather than to help courts with what's happening, they've decided mostly to fight them.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Bail Insurance Lobbyist Representing You!

Here's a video worth watching.

It shows just how bad the bail insurance companies' strategy to "fight everything" is doing on the ground in places that are actually trying to change. Scroll to about the 3:24:15 mark and see the ex-head of ABC, a bail agent, and some dude from New Jersey, all talking about how nobody should change anything.

The reaction from the City of Philadelphia Special Committee on Criminal Justice Reform is harsh, and shows just how ineffective the insurance lobbyists have become. Ineffective to the point where it gradually became clear that the Special Committee was personally offended by the panel.

I feel bad for the agent -- it's clear that this whole thing was orchestrated by the ex-ABC guy, and the agent was just trying to say what the ABC guy told him to say. But anytime you use the terms "circle of love," "accountability," and other insurance coined phrases, you should really think twice. I mean, do you think taking someone's mother's car is in any way a part of a "circle of love"? And, as I've said many times before, "accountability" is a punishment term, not a bail term. But mostly, people just don't want to hear how great everything is when they've already decided to reform it.

So take a step back and you'll see the overall flaw in the insurance strategy. The City of Philadelphia sets up a Committee seeking answers about how to change, not whether to change. The bail insurance companies respond by saying, "Don't change."

How does that go over? Well, watch and see.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Bail Agents, This Should Worry You


Bail agents, if the insurance companies were making any progress, you'd see independent opinion pieces popping up all over America with varying views about bail reform. You wouldn't be able to even keep track of them, and they'd be coming from a variety of big, important groups or people who have legitimate opinions about bail. That's what I see every day -- and I can honestly say that I can't keep track of any of it.

But what do you get? Opinion pieces written and likely paid for by ABC and the insurance-infested PBUS.

The latest example is, "Bail Keeps Criminals Away from the Rest of Us," an opinion piece posted by ABC and PBUS the other day. How do I know this piece is just a shill piece for the insurance companies? Because the dude who wrote it doesn't know anything about bail and keeps talking about all the stuff the insurance companies are peddling.

Let's start with the title. You do know that when bail keeps criminals away from the rest of us, that's actually "no bail," right? Bail that is designed to keep criminals from the rest of us is unconstitutional. This legal lesson is lost on the insurance companies, though, and they keep trying to force people to think that somehow they have something to do with public safety. But the author doesn't know that -- he writes what they tell him.

Next the author tries a history lesson, saying that "prior to the advent of bail, suspects were held until their trial date." Wrong. With a capital W. Bail has always been release. Even the predecessors to bail -- before the Normans, before jails even, were based on release. I honestly don't know what this guy is talking about, but you should know that the insurance companies' attempt to write a competing history of bail has failed already. Really, man, I'd like to see a cite for this one.

Then there's the language. Only bail insurance companies say "get out of jail free," "social justice warriors," and "algorithm regime."

Then there's what the author cites to. Jefferson County Colorado is a favorite of bail insurance companies because that's where I came from. You only have to know two things about Jeffco. They got rid of money bail for 14 weeks, and everything went well. After that pilot, they went back to using money bail and everything sucked. By the way, it was the insurance companies coming out to Jeffco and attacking me personally that ultimately led me to do what I do now full time. Do you think that coming after me back then was a good strategy? Think about that every time they make personal attacks, and be sure to give a big thanks to ABC for getting me started and to PBUS for keeping me going.

He also cites to a study by Helland and Tabarrok, which has been discredited by the very agency that provided the data for that study to begin with. But the point is, nobody cites to those guys on their own -- they do it only when it's part of the insurance company script.

Then there's New Jersey.

And finally, there's the fact that the entire piece does exactly what ABC and PBUS do best -- fight and argue for the status quo without any ideas to help jurisdictions that are actually trying to change. "It isn't perfect," the author says, "but it beats the alternative." That argument is worthless and failing as we speak.

All of this should worry you, bail agents, because ABC and PBUS have to provide all of the crap for people to say. It may look like someone has put a bit of independent thought into this opinion piece, but that's just not true. ABC and PBUS don't have any people talking about keeping the money bail system in place on their own, and so ABC and PBUS have to actually manufacture people's opinions.

Like I said, I can't even keep track of all the people across America writing about changing "bail" and "no bail." I don't have to tell anyone what to say. They just say it. What do the bail insurance companies do? They use shills.

And because using a shill is a weasel move, I use the weasel pic.






Thursday, June 8, 2017

PBUS Definitely Won't Publish This!

Wow, that worked well.

I posted my blog about the Harris County case, PBUS read it, posted its own blog, and then said I was wrong when I predicted PBUS wouldn't talk about it.

So all I have to do is taunt PBUS, and they'll print whatever I want their bail agents to see?

Excellent. Let's try it again, but this time let's give the bail agents something a little meatier.

1. The Harris County loss is indicative of the entire insurance company strategy. ABC and the insurance-infested PBUS intend to fight literally everything -- yes, all the way to the Supreme Court -- and they're willing to take bail agents down while they do it. I've written tons of times about how this strategy only works for the bail insurance companies, and it inevitably dooms agents.

2. New Jersey is a prime example. Money bail is gone. Bail agents are gone. There's no going back. Why? Because the insurance companies fought literally everything. Now, even though money is still there, and even though judges could set surety bonds, they don't. All those stories about NJ being a failure? That's an ex-bondsman and a disgruntled insurance blogger making up stories to keep agents hoping that what happened in NJ won't happen to them. If defendants are really dangerous, NJ has a way to detain them without money. Money bail is done there.

3. NM is another prime example, I haven't read them completely yet, but I see a definite slant against commercial surety bonds there. Why? Because the insurance companies fought everything. And guess what? Even if you survive there for a little while, another Harris County-type case will force NM to stop using money altogether.

4. The insurance company strategy could have been to help states through this generation of bail reform. Instead, they have only fought every effort to improve without providing any answer of their own. Because of that, they're eliminating their own industry.

5. The bail agents only hope is to break free from the insurance companies. Hire their own person who can see past the "fight everything" mentality and help the states move through this generation of reform. If they do, then people who are bail agents today may (and I mean "may," because the longer they wait, the worse it gets -- it may already be too late) have some future in pretrial release and detention.

6. By the way, that future doesn't mean just adding GPS or drug testing services to a traditional money bond. It's more than that, and if you don't know what I'm talking about by now, I'm not sure there's much hope.

7. Finally, despite what PBUS and ABC say, this is not a partisan movement. You may see some small wins due to politics, just as you did before, but mostly this thing is bipartisan and inevitable.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

This Won't Be on the PBUS Facebook Page (or maybe it will!)

For those of you who only get your bail related information from the insurance company Facebook pages, here's a bit of news: the 5th Circuit and Justice Clarence Thomas just denied Harris County's motion for emergency stay of the preliminary injunction.

When this lawsuit was first filed, the County claimed that people were in jail because they wanted to be in jail (that's an insurance company argument, by the way). Well, I guess we'll see. Maybe all those defendants will say they don't want to leave the jail when the Sheriff starts letting them out.

When I first wrote this I forgot about the spin factor. So PBUS and others will write about it, but they'll eventually start what I call the New Jersey spin: these defendants used to want to stay in jail -- now, they'll say, they're obviously too dangerous to release. That was their argument for the stay.

Bottom line, though, is that this is the beginning of the end.



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bail Insurance Response to ACLU/Color of Change Report


I just read the bail insurance companies' first response to the ACLU/Color of Change report that shines a big light on those companies. The response is schizophrenic, as usual, declaring that bail insurance companies are white knights by letting everyone out of jail while, at the same time, bemoaning the fact that bail reform is letting everyone out of jail. I mean, which is it, dude? Do you even believe in bail? Are they defendants or criminals? Do you even know what I'm talking about?

This is just further proof that the insurance industry doesn't understand criminal justice, bail, or constitutional law.

But this particular comment in the response caught my eye: "I actually have to get back to my real job, which isn't funded by taxpayers, but rather by customers who pay us money for providing an important service to the community. Yes, that is called commerce. It occurs when someone creates value through a service or product that people are willing to pay for."

Man, you'd think this guy was selling sandwiches. Commerce? Do you think bail is like other forms of commerce, where manufacturers create a product that people actually want to buy, and with market forces of supply and demand determining the viability of the product? I don't think so, which is why the bail insurance companies are hell bent on forcing jurisdictions to keep money bail so that they can force the demand.

If bail was like commerce, it would be more like a guy selling umbrellas on the street. If it never rained, he'd go out of the business of selling umbrellas and find something different to sell. But if that guy acted like the bail insurance companies, he'd go to state legislatures and get them to make it a law to force people to buy umbrellas even if it never rained. Two on Tuesdays. That's hardly creating a product or service people are willing to pay for. today, all over America, people are voluntarily becoming unwilling to use the bail insurance product, but the bail insurance companies want to force it on them anyway. That's the opposite of commerce.

So his job isn't what I'd call a real job, unless forcing other people (including bail agents) to keep you fat and happy is your idea of real, or a job. You realize, don't you, that in that ACLU/Color of Change report the insurance companies were bragging that they never paid out on any claims? What kind of a service are you providing when you force everyone else to provide the service for you?

Okay, so bail insurance companies don't understand bail, they don't understand the constitution, and they don't understand basic fundamentals of a market economy. And you bail agents are following their lead for what reason again?

Friday, May 12, 2017

ACLU/Color of Change Report on Bail Insurance Companies

We interrupt this blog that rips on bail insurance companies to provide this link to a new report ripping on bail insurance companies. It isn't hard to do -- once you can get past the cloak of secrecy that's a hallmark of all nasty businesses. But this report is great, and the beginning of the end of bail insurance activity in criminal justice.

Some of the highlights -- eliminate the bail industry, and until then investigate and better regulate the companies behind it. And, get this, a plea for some of the larger corporations to act ethically by cutting all ties to the bail industry.

As usual, it's the insurance companies that are causing all the chaos. Bail agents, you gotta cut loose!

Happy reading!


ABC -- We'll Take Harris County Case "All the Way to the Supreme Court"

Bail agents, you better hope they don't, because I really hope they do.

This batch of lawyers failed miserably in the district court. Do you think they'll somehow get any better between now and an appeal, given that they don't really understand bail?

If they take the wrong case to the Supreme Court and lose, it's the end of money bail in America in one single case.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Who's running this strategy of yours?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bail Insurance Company “Experts” in Harris County


In my last blog, I showed how the bail insurance companies didn’t even know what the word “bail” meant. That’s a big deal – the amicus in which they screwed up in Houston was written for the case in Georgia by some big shot appellate lawyer. They paid him big money – so they got a big mistake.

Now let’s see how the bail insurance companies fared with their “expert” witnesses in Harris County. They had two. The first is pretty easy to dismiss. The court found that even though he might have known a bit about the history of the Harris County Court back when he worked there, he’d been retired for six years and so his testimony was given “substantially less weight” than contradictory testimony.

The second “expert” really requires a bit of an explanation, but I’ll save that explanation just in case the bail insurance dudes decide (unwisely) to use him again. Suffice it to say that this second guy is a bail insurance lackey (he’s been one since 2010) apparently with an incredible bias toward making sure those companies look good at any cost. But don’t trust me – just read what the court said about him. As you do, remember that when we legal types say something “isn’t credible,” it means we don’t believe it.

“His method for arriving at that number is not clear . . . [therefore, the other expert’s] calculation . . . is the more reliable figure.”

“[His] criticism is not credible . . . [and is] particularly weak given his own analytical shortcomings in studying Harris County’s data.”

“The defendants dispute these numbers, but their expert . . . provided no alternative figures.”

“The defendant’s expert . . . attempted a different method of counting. His study is critically flawed in at least two ways.”

“An even more basic flaw in [his] study was his exclusion of all misdemeanor defendants who had ‘moderate’ or ‘high’ risk scores from the population he considered. In sum, [he] excluded indigent defendants from his survey to conclude that, of the misdemeanor defendants surveyed, none was detained because of indigence. [This] conclusion is not entitled to any weight.”

“These critical flaws undermine his credibility and diminishes the court’s confidence in the reliability of the opinions he expressed, whether deriving from his own research or criticizing the analytic methods and conclusions of others.”

Ouch.

“[His] attempt to salvage his report is not successful.”  

“[His] decision to disaggregate his findings by gender and provide no overall failure rates is puzzling, to say the least. His decision to disaggregate his findings had the effect of inflating the slight difference in failure rates . . . and made it appear greater than the overall rate of failure, which [he] did not provide.”

“His [Dallas Study] is entitled to substantially less weight than the published, peer-reviewed articles in the record.”

Wow. Enough already. Do you get it? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he talks about other research, and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he’s talking about his own research. And that stuff about inflating the rates? That’s his incredible bias to try to find some conclusion that supports the insurance companies.

I can’t blame this so-called expert for falling under the spell of the bail insurance companies. They offer people boatloads of money and fame – a weird kind of bail fame that comes from having your work immediately thrust into the national spotlight. Other people fall for that, too.  The problem is that now that he’s been ridiculed in court, the bail insurance companies will just go hunt for some other patsy willing to say anything for all that money and bail fame.  

Once again, bail agents, you need to unshackle yourselves from the bail insurance companies. Yeah, they got the county to appeal, but that’s just to buy time to settle. The appeal on this single motion (this is not the trial – it’s just an incredibly huge motion hearing before the trial) will cost a ton more money in just legal fees, and then, even if they win, they’ll just end up in trial with the same judge, the same evidence, and the same expert.

You bail agents in America have to consider removing that word “agent” from your title. You’ve got to find someone who understands how the insurance companies’ protracted “fight everything” strategy won’t work – especially when what they did in Harris County is the best they can do. When you find that person, tell him or her that you want to remain in business, but that you know that might mean changing your business practices. The insurance companies are on their way out in American bail. Your choice is between letting them go down on their own, or letting them take you down with them. 


Thursday, May 4, 2017

ABC Doesn't Even Know What Bail Is

So I'm perusing the Harris County memorandum and opinion in the federal case, and I see a footnote in which the court says, "Texas's scheme points up a flaw in the amicus brief filed by the American Bail Coalition [and others]. The brief consistently and ahistorically assumes that references to 'bail' always mean a secured money bail with a monetary payment required up front as a condition of release." That's "a-historically," as in, going against or ignorant of history.

Thats 's a pretty big flaw, because it means the bail insurance companies -- the group developing the strategy to keep money bail in America -- doesn't even know what bail is. This flaw is the basis for a lot of the bail insurance companies' flawed legal claims, by the way, and it's the same flaw advanced by the big time law firm they've hired to litigate these cases.

I've written about this many times before, and they've got no excuse because everything the court said about bail -- what it is and what it isn't -- has been spelled out in my papers. But they refuse to read my papers. I'll let you decide whether that's wise. As the federal court in Harris County said, bail is a mechanism of release. As my papers say, bail is a process of release. We have a thing called bail to release people, just as we have a thing called "no bail" to provide a way to detain them. It's really pretty simple.

Bail agents, the insurance companies are not only losing this thing for you, they're losing it without even bothering to figure out what they're even talking about.

One day, as you're turning off the lights one final time, you'll probably think to yourself, "I suppose before we just followed along with the insurance companies' lost cause, we should've  at least checked to see if they could correctly define the word bail."

Just in case, in my next blog I'll define the words "American" and "Coalition."

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Bail Reform and "Accountability"

This blog is called "Bail Basics" for a reason. Every so often, I have to get back to basics and explain some really foundational thing, like the definition of certain terms and phrases.


Mostly I do it because the bail insurance companies mislead people by using the wrong words, and that's the case here.


I'll be brief. Accountability is a term associated with punishment, not bail.
Being accountable is being responsible for your actions. In criminal justice, that happens after we prove those actions. In bail, we say we want "assurances," as in "reasonable assurance" of either court appearance or public safety. That's because we haven't proven any actions yet. That's what the law says. The law surrounding bail and no bail simply doesn't use the term accountability. 


And when we talk about assurances, we don't mean complete assurances, by the way. We mean "reasonable assurances." That's because bail always involves some risk. We take risks in bail and in the substantive criminal law because we're Americans and we're interested in limited government, liberty, and the moral deterrence of the rule of law. That's what the law says, too. 


So, bail insurance dudes, if you want money bail, please don't say you want it because you want defendants to be "accountable." If you do, it means you don't understand fundamental precepts of American law. 


Monday, May 1, 2017

Money Bail Loses in Harris County, Texas



Those of us out changing bail across America over the weekend already saw this, but if you're just waking up, the federal judge in Harris County ruled that "Harris County's policy and practice violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution." What policy and practice is that? It's the traditional money bail system used in jurisdictions all over the country.

The memorandum and opinion is long, but you can read it here.

I'll have more in the future on this, only because it was mostly the bail insurance companies trying to run this litigation. They provided the experts (which were trashed in the opinion), and they supplied all the faulty legal arguments. In fact, you can see that the County was out of its depth through what various county officials said on the record. But this loss isn't a loss for Harris County -- it'll survive and eventually make appropriate changes. But the bail insurance companies are going to have to go back to the old drawing board.

Additionally, and to their credit, many criminal justice leaders in Harris County agreed even before the hearing that the system there was unfair and unconstitutional. That's happening all over the U.S.

Let the spin begin. The bail insurance companies will now be trying to convince the county to appeal. It shouldn't, as it will lead to a tremendous amount of money spent on a futile cause. They'll also try to convince bail agents that, in the end, they'll win. So expect an appeal for more of your money as well.

I've worked in law for a dang long time, and I've worked for federal courts. I've never seen anyone put more time and money into a motions hearing than the bail insurance companies did in this one. But, you see, you can't lobby federal judges. You can't change the constitution. And, in the end, you can't hold on to an inherently unfair money bail system.


Monday, April 24, 2017

The Anecdotes Fall Apart Quicky

The bail insurance companies think they're fooling people with anecdotal stories about "failures" surrounding bail reform in New Jersey. They're not. Just check out this opinion piece posted in that state yesterday.

In fact, they don't even realize that past iterations of bail insurance company lobbyists already tried the anecdotal route and failed.

When I first got started in bail reform, and when all we had fighting us were a few unripened district attorneys in short pants and, of course, national bail insurance company lobbyists, they only used anecdotes. That was their main strategy, and it worked horribly. Look at where we are now.

As the opinion piece says, "What we don't want . . . is a political mad dash to change this reform, based on anecdotes."

I know it's tempting to use anecdotes. It's sort of human nature. But realize this. Even if you do, the laws, policies, and practices that you create based on anecdotes simply won't hold up legally. If I'm an appellate court, and I'm trying to gauge a legislature's justification for a new bail law, it's not going to fly for that legislature to say, "Well, we had this one particular guy who sawed off his GPS and . . . "

So, the strategy of the bail insurance companies appears to be "fight everything," even if it kills their own bail agents, and "use anecdotal scary stories to try to fool people while you fight," even if that didn't work ten years before and even if it'll lead to laws being struck in the future.

I don't know, bail agents, seems like these guys haven't learned anything in ten years. Maybe it's time for a change.

Friday, April 21, 2017

“Colorado Model” Isn’t Working So Well?


Man, those bail insurance companies will lie about anything, and especially about Colorado. It’s a long story, but they really hate Colorado for three big reasons, and it’s so juvenile that it would remind you of grade school recess if I explained it to you.

Nevertheless, in a recent post, the insurance companies cite to a story about Boulder County (Colorado) District Attorney Stan Garnett’s concerns over public safety in bond setting. They post the article, and then they say, “Apparently, the so-called ‘Colorado Model’ isn’t working so well.”

Once again, though, the insurance companies are misleading people or likely failed to actually read the story they posted. If they’d have read it, they’d have seen that the DA was having a problem with judges continually letting so-called high risk people out on bonds with money amounts that the DA thought were too low.

That’s not the “Colorado Model” – that’s the “American Money Bail Model.”

The DA cited to a case involving a guy named Lobato as an example”

“Lobato is a good example of a guy who comes in, gets a bond of $10,000, which he is immediately able to make, then turns around and allegedly commits another serious offense and then gets a bond of only $15,000 which [he] is also able to immediately make,” Garnett said. “In hindsight, the (first bond) was not set high enough to protect the public.”

All the other examples he cited were the same. People post money, get out, commit new crimes, and then post more money.

That’s the essence of the money bail system in general, and the commercial surety system in particular, both of which allow high risk people to pay to get out of jail, commit new crimes, and then pay to get out again. And, as usual, nobody ever forfeits the money for these new crimes. That particular law – the law that says you can’t forfeit money for public safety – is courtesy of your bail insurance lobbyists working over the past 50 years, and it’s basically the same in every state in America.

Like I’ve said before, the only amount of money that will keep anyone safe is an amount that detains, and that’s unlawful when set to detain on purpose. So, for now in Colorado, we’re stuck with a system – based on the money bail and commercial surety models – that allows high risk people to buy their way out of jail.

So, let’s review. What model was the judge using in the Lobato case? The money bail model. What’s not working so well? The money bail model. What do the insurance companies want us to continue to use? The money bail model.

Again, we here in Colorado know all that, so the post must be designed only to make bail agents think the bail insurance companies are making progress. They aren't. 

  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Model" Bail Laws

After far too long, I’m finally posting the paper I’ve been working on dealing with pretrial release and detention. You can find it here.

In this generation of bail reform, jurisdictions are changing – both voluntarily and by force – their release and detention laws, policies, and practices. This paper answers the question, “If we change, to what do we change?”  Knowing this answer might help places that are still unsure of what a lawful, purposeful, in-or-out pretrial release and detention process should look like, and the steps required to create and to legally justify it.  

To me, the hard part about “model” bail laws isn’t necessarily what we should do to make sure we get good outcomes after a person is determined to be releasable. The hard part is re-drawing that initial line based on whom we want to release and whom we want to detain, which, in most cases means re-articulating both a narrow charge-based detention eligibility net and more refined further limiting process following fundamental American notions of fairness and liberty, all while infusing this generation of risk research into the mix. I’ve noticed a lot of people aiming at this target lately, and so I hope this helps with the overall conversation.

The whole issue is a bit more complicated than simply replacing charge with risk. In the end, you’ll see that the two have to work together. The paper is long because of that complexity, but you can skip to the end, where I lay out various templates of a release/detain dichotomy for a model based on the history, the law, the research, and the national standards. If you then want to know my justification for that model, you can read the other 190 pages. Jurisdictions certainly don’t have to use my model, but my hope is that in the future, jurisdictions will nonetheless see my justification, and then provide the same or similar justification for any changes to their laws.

Many people are asking where actuarial pretrial risk assessment instruments fit into all of this. The answer is that they are fabulous at helping with 99% of everything we are trying to achieve with pretrial release and detention. Nevertheless, my analysis concludes that we cannot use them solely to determine detention or detention eligibility. That seems pretty obvious when you say it out loud, but laying down a proper justification made the issue a bit complicated.

I’m sorry for the length and the fact that there is no proper “executive summary,” but, frankly, this paper isn’t really for mass consumption. Nevertheless, people who are at that point where they are putting pen to paper to craft the words of their constitutions, statutes, and court rules, will definitely want to read it. There are other discussions, as well, that might help those of you trying to think through the whole charge versus risk question. And, of course, if you’re just really obsessed with bail and no bail – like I am – then you can pour through it and call me with any questions.


I have a hunch about bail reform in America. My hunch is that the first two generations of bail reform didn’t work for three reasons: (1) judges weren’t involved; (2) we worked mostly in the federal system, and didn’t take the time to walk states through the same process; and (3) we never really had all the answers. In this generation, judges are involved, and we are working with the states. And with this paper, I personally believe that we now have some of the final answers to give to states trying to create a more purposeful and possibly moneyless system. 

And you thought all I did was complain about the insurance companies! 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Modifications Sought for NJ Bail Reform?

So the insurance companies are now displaying a letter from the NJ Attorney General saying that he wants modifications in bail for persons arrested on gun and eluding charges. 


The industry posts the story, and then adds commentary saying "The wheels are starting to come off of NJ bail reform," and "The failures of NJ bail reform are well documented."


That's some pretty hyperbolic commentary, given that the NJ AG didn't ask for the one thing the insurance companies want in all cases -- the re-introduction of money.


Those insurance dudes don't get it. NJ has created a super wide detention eligibility net, and could quite easily detain persons showing any kind of heightened risk to public safety. Adding money to their bonds -- the only solution posed by the insurance companies -- won't do a thing for danger, and everyone in NJ knows that. Heck, even the insurance dudes know that. That's why most of their posts are mixed messages, with statements warning about all those dangerous defendants while simultaneously talking about the presumption of innocence. Right now, you have the head of ABC trying to start a national bail fund for poor people while the head of PBUS continues to say, "people aren't in jail because they're poor."


Nobody except the insurance companies is saying to add money back into the bail process to make people safe. I've spent the last 10 years showing how money doesn't make anyone safe, and the bail industry has spent the last 10 years making sure they don't have any responsibility for public safety. Some of our worst failures over the years have been when super high risk people bail out of jail on a surety bond and commit heinous crimes. Just a few weeks ago, a guy in Colorado bailed out on a surety bond and was promptly arrested for a double homicide. Nobody assessed him, nobody supervised him, and he didn't even have any other conditions besides the money, which nobody even forfeited. 


If I thought that the people who run these systems paid any attention to the insurance companies' various Facebook accounts, I might be worried that they'd be duped in some way. But everybody I know in criminal justice knows the score. The only reason these stories -- and their crazy commentary -- get posted is to convince bail agents that somehow they're winning the war so that they'll keep sending money in to continue the fight. 


So go ahead. Keep sending it in. You're paying for the salaries of people who are systematically killing your businesses.




Thursday, April 6, 2017

Bail Insurance Companies Spread False and Misleading Letter


The website “U.S. Bail Reform News,” a pretty weak attempt by the insurance companies to provide slanted information on bail reform, recently put up a post about a Colorado district attorney warning Maryland about bail reform. What they left out tells you something about whether you can ever rely on that site for anything but bogus information.

The insurance companies’ ties to that particular DA’s office go back a long time. I was once in the room when five or six DA’s from that office, along with some bail insurance dudes, were trying to convince our county commissioners to de-fund our pretrial services unit. So back then, as the story goes, the DA in charge got pretty hammered by the rest of the system. He liked bail the way it was – money, money, all the time – and the rest of the system voted him down and made some changes. He was so upset – and I mean, like, upset the way a six-year-old gets – that he never forgot it. Ever since then, that particular DA’s office has done everything it can to try to “go back” to the good old days with money, bail schedules, and DA’s deciding on the amounts, and to “get back” at the people who made the changes. If I listed all the dumb things that office did when it came to getting back at everybody over the bail project, you’d want to barf. Or send them to Washington.

And all that childish pride, that incredibly irrational opposition against everything that is bail reform (including opposition to many things that would help with public safety – the DA actually once said he “didn’t believe in research” or "didn't care about the research," which was something monumentally dumb for a lawyer to say) was just the thing to get the insurance companies excited. So when Maryland came along, those companies got the current DA to write a letter with a current county commissioner and the current sheriff, saying that bail reform failed. I won’t bore you with the details, but there were only a couple things wrong with the letter: (1) it was factually incorrect; and (2) the people who signed it weren’t even around and in any position to comment on it one way or another. The two are related, I suppose. Since they weren’t around when we did stuff, they didn’t know that what they said about it was wrong. The commissioner actually testified before the Maryland legislature about a “10 County Pilot Project” in Colorado. Well, guess what? There was no such thing. It simply never happened. That’s either dumb or . . . no, it’s probably just dumb.

Anyway, a district court judge in that same jurisdiction drafted a declaration about the letter saying: (1) they were wrong; and (2) they weren’t even there. We gave that declaration to Maryland and to the people in Texas, and we continue to give it out to anyone who trots out the dumb letter.

As a side note, it may interest you to know that the bail insurance companies once requested the County to submit to them some sort of document about the bail project. You'll never see that response, though, because the County itself said the bail project was a success. Obviously, that wasn't the answer they wanted. So they went with the letter.  

This whole thing follows a trend I have written about before. The insurance companies will pay anyone to write or do anything to help them, and they really don’t care if what comes out is even true. Then they tell all the bail agents around the country to look at it like it’s some sort of victory, but they never mention the fallout from providing false information to various officials and what happens whenever I correct the record.

All this fighting by the insurance companies – all this desperate use of false information – is why judges are going to simply stop using commercial surety bonds. That’s the fallout. It won’t matter whether you leave money in or take it out. After all, look at New Jersey. All that fighting led to money being left in the mix, but judges simply aren’t using it. This is what’s going to happen around America. And it’s due to the insurance companies’ inability to tell the truth about even stupid things.

“We have a letter!”    


Big deal. We have the truth. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bail Insurance "Accountability"

Here's an example of bail insurance "accountability" in El Paso County, Colorado.

Defendant: Gustavo Marquez

Case #1 -- 17CR1150, felony assault, kidnapping, child abuse. No risk assessment, no supervision, released on $5,000 surety bond with no further conditions.

Case #2 -- 17CR1586, while on release for case # 1, arrested for double homicide (victims = 15-year-old-boy and 16-year-old girl). Now being held without bail.

The kicker? Nobody forfeited the $5000.




Sunday, March 12, 2017

My No Spin Zone

I have no idea why bail insurance people (including the insurance infested PBUS) can't report anything without considerable spin. Here's the truth about a couple of things they've reported on lately.

First, the 11th Circuit remand was not a "huge win" or a "major blow" for anyone. It got sent back kind of on a technicality (an important technicality, sure, but still a technicality). I used to write opinions for a circuit court of appeals, and this is not the kind of opinion that means much of anything. The district court judge already thought Walker was likely to win on the merits, and if nothing changes, he may well find the very same thing again. Another injunction, another appeal. It's a royal pain in the rear to have to do stuff over again, if it comes to that, but it's not a huge win for anyone.

The absolute truth (which people on "my side" don't even like to hear) is that preliminary injunctions are really rare, and super hard to get. I never expected one, especially on a tricky topic like bail. In fact, over time, I think we'll see both wins and losses in the district courts. I predict, however, that the "no money bail" push will ultimately be embraced by the federal courts. It's just going to take a while. If you do see a bunch of preliminary injunctions, though, that's really bad news for money bail. It's why the insurance folks are spending so much money down in Texas.

Second, somebody apparently watched the Pi-Con pretrial conference, made fun of it, and said it meant that everything was going to swing back the insurance company's way. I was there, and what I saw actually gave me quite a shock. We were going to watch a debate about money bail from a more conservative guy (Mark Levin from Right on Crime) versus a more liberal guy (Rep. Ted Lieu), and I expected disagreement. But there wasn't any. Both predicted the end of money bail because it made no sense whether you were conservative or liberal. Mark mentioned possibly using defendant collateral, but not through families or through a commercial surety system.

The absolute truth is that the disagreement between conservatives and liberals will come not from the elimination of money, but from where to draw the line between release and detention in a moneyless world. Nobody has gotten that far yet, but they soon will.

I also talked to more than a few judges, and they said essentially what I heard at a Conference of Chief Justice's conference not long ago. The judges said, "We just aren't going to use commercial sureties anymore." You can fight all you want, but if you leave money in the system and judges simply don't use it, it's all over. You can try to force judges to set a surety bond -- I've seen many attempts of that in the states, some even successful. But I've never seen anyone force a particular amount, and that's where all the forcing fails.

There's still time for bail agents to find a place in this new world of pretrial release and detention, but you won't get there listening to the insurance companies.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Bail Agents Leading Bail Reform?


How does the one group of people who's neck deep in bail (i.e., the bail agents) end up completely outside of bail reform? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself lately. 

The answer isn’t all that complicated. It’s because the insurance companies don’t know anything about you, and they didn’t consult you when they decided on a strategy to fight everything in bail reform.

 I’m not kidding when I say they don’t know you. The other day the head of PBUS said you all had been around for 200 years. That’s wrong, and it’s proof that they don’t know your history. Commercial sureties have been around for 120 years, but that’s not a bad thing. The fact is, when commercial bail bonding came about in America’s history, bail bondsmen were the white knights – riding in to fix a system that nobody else knew how to fix. Your predecessors helped America figure out how to get people out of jail who shouldn’t have been in jail to begin with. It was a huge thing, and something you all should be proud of. 

 The point, though, is that the insurance companies don’t even know any of this, and yet they try to speak on your behalf. Now they simultaneously say states should maintain a right to bail, but that everyone who is arrested is a violent criminal and should be locked up. It’s the most contradictory thing I think I’ve ever heard. The other day someone showed me the hashtag, “savebailkeepeminjail.” Only an insurance goofball could dream that up.    

Then there’s that “fight everything” strategy. They probably don’t know this either, but that strategy actually got going in 1965, when Attorney General Kennedy held the first National Conference on Bail and Criminal Justice. There were two people representing the industry at that Conference, and guess what? Yep, they were both insurance guys. The first guy basically said, good luck trying to change anything. He gave no help whatsoever in trying to figure out the kinds of things the participants were questioning. Instead, he just kept saying that the system was great the way it was. In the end, he said: “We do say, however, that the bail bond business is something that will go on forever. It cannot be abolished.” So there.


 The second guy actually said a few things that current bail insurance dudes could learn from. First he talked about the presumption of innocence (you may recall that today’s insurance people used to argue that it didn’t exist at bail). Then he talked about surety bonds being a more equitable than England’s system, which tended to refuse bail altogether in much higher numbers. But in the end, he basically said that trying to change anything about his particular bail insurance industry was socialism, and that it would lead to the socialization of the entire insurance industry and ultimately all industry. Now, I wouldn’t call that figuring out solutions, would you? 


You bail agents could be the people who help everyone figure out what to do next, and yet you have chosen to give your power to insurance people, who don’t understand you, your history, or your potential place in the future of American pretrial release and detention.   


There's no place in that future for insurance companies. They know that, which is why they fight everything. Once you know it, you’ll cut them loose and maybe help everyone with a solution. Think about it – bail agents leading bail reform. It actually makes sense. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

PBUS Head: “We don’t want to kill our clients . . .”

“We don’t want to kill our clients . . . it sort of kills [our] repeat business.” Yep, that’s what the PBUS head said in an interview the other day.

Okay, I know that was probably meant to be funny, but I listened to the rest of the interview and I heard a lot of crazy-ass stuff – you know, stuff about George Soros being behind some secret cabal that means the end to money bail in America.

Look, I know people like to have an enemy. And I know it’s intriguing to talk about some dark, nefarious enemy who nobody even knows about, but who is really some grand puppeteer behind the scenes screwing things up for everyone. But in this case, it just isn’t so. I’m right here. George Soros is somewhere out there. I do bail reform everywhere. I’m not sure what he does anywhere. We haven’t talked, and I haven’t even seen one word mentioned about him except from groups like PBUS.

Bail agents, if this is the strategy that you told PBUS and ABC to pursue, then God bless you. But even if you did, I hope you realize how nuts it all sounds out loud.  


Friday, February 24, 2017

Bail Insurance Companies Care Little About Bail


Lately I’ve been spending a lot of effort on some big-time bail cases – one recent one even involved filing a brief in the United States Supreme Court. But can you guess who’s not involved in any of these cases? That’s right, the bail insurance companies.


 Even though these cases deal with pretrial release (bail) and detention (no bail) – how to do it, what makes it constitutional, etc., – the bail insurance companies either don’t know about them or they don’t care because technically the cases don’t involve directly taking away their money.


 That’s a mistake, though, because a bunch of us know that what the Supreme Court says about detention for, say, immigration cases, will likely foreshadow a future ruling on money bail. 


The insurance companies are winging it. While they’re spending all their time and effort on motions hearings, some really big stuff is happening that will affect their industry more than they think.
 

If you’re in the bail industry, but you don’t care enough about bail apparently even to know about these other cases, what in the world are you doing?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

PBUS in Atlanta!

The insurance-infested PBUS is sending their fearless leader to stand bravely on the courthouse steps and then watch oral argument in the big 11th Circuit case in Georgia!

Time for a gut check:

1. Standing on the courthouse steps and watching oral argument at a federal court of appeals is absolutely ineffectual. I know, because I used to work in a federal court of appeals writing opinions. The insurance companies know it's dumb, but they're telling you bail agents they're going there so you'll think they're actually doing something. This isn't like some local county court, where you can sit there, frown, take notes, and then oppose the judge at the next election.

2. You'll win or lose in the federal courts based on the merits. Not based on politics, or public opinion, or some lame amicus brief. By the way, I filed my own amicus in that case ripping apart the Clement brief. Turns out, like the insurance companies that hired him, he doesn't know much about bail. And, the truth is that a big, difficult issue like pretrial release and detention -- pitting the 8th Amendment against the 14th Amendment -- will likely have a series of decisions that go both ways before we get the whole thing sorted out.

3. Someone has to confront the brainiacs working on the overall insurance strategy that simultaneously fighting for "bail" (you know, conditional release prior to trial for people accused of crimes -- one of the many big things we enjoy as Americans) and against defendants by calling them criminals and acting like nobody should be released pretrial is just boneheaded. I know you agents understand the difference between a defendant and a "criminal," so you just need to explain it to the insurance people. Tell them that if they don't like people, they can get involved in sentencing. The insurance companies' strategy makes you all look like you don't even understand your own profession. I know you do.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Dear Bail Agents at PBUS:

This week you gather to talk about pretrial release and detention, something your profession has cared about since 1898, and the ancestors to your profession have cared about since 400 A.D. But you are at a crossroads, and I’m writing to give you a warning.


 Those of you who’ve read my blog know that I like bail agents. As I’ve said many times before, the bail agents I know are the salt of the earth, and likely care about the right to bail more than a lot of judges I have known. In my own little world, I have made people really anxious whenever I’ve told a state that there is nothing inherently wrong with private pretrial, that bail agents might have a place in the world of pretrial justice if they simply change their model, and that I probably wouldn’t even mind using money if someone could figure out a way to use it so that it works and is fair.


 But if you’ve read my blog, you also know that I’m not fond of the bail insurance companies or the groups erected to protect them, like ABC and the insurance-plagued PBUS. I have seen them trample not only ordinary people who get in their way, but also bail agents themselves when they stand between those companies and their money. Mostly, though, they’re a problem because they fight literally every effort at bail reform, and thus are a hindrance to pretrial justice. I have repeatedly written that their strategy to fight everything will only bring your livelihoods to a swift demise, and yet they believe that strategy is the only one that has any hope of assuring that they remain in business. That strategy is killing you, but they show no signs of changing it.


 New Jersey is a good example. When reform began, the insurance companies fought hard. No money? Never! Risk assessment instruments? They’re discriminatory and flawed (by the way, insurance companies arguing that actuarial risk tools are flawed is kind of funny, given they use them for literally every other kind of insurance)! Pretrial services supervision? Public welfare! Are there any poor people in jail? Of course not! Do any dangerous rich people get out who shouldn’t? Never! Use D.C. as a model? No, not for anything! What about Kentucky? They’re worse! 


 But what did all that get them in New Jersey? By all accounts, the potential demise of commercial bail bonding in a state that left money and bail agents intact. So now the insurance companies have a PR firm and are manufacturing stories about success, because most everything is going south. Just stop and think for one second – can you see where fighting literally everything a state is proposing can lead to that state thinking that the insurance companies simply aren’t being reasonable?  And the states are learning pretty fast that even if they listen to the insurance companies, those companies sill fight them later on. People are simply sick of the message the insurance lobbyists are giving. That’s why even though the New Jersey judges can still use money, they just don’t want to. That’s the insurance companies’ doing.  


 You’re going to hear a lot of upbeat messages this week about the bail wars. They’ll tell you how they asked to file a brief in Harris County, but they won’t mention that it’s recycled from the 11th Circuit and is unlikely to even be read by a district court judge except for comic relief. They’ll tell you they argued in Maryland, but they won’t tell you they lost the argument (well, they’ll say they added secret, last minute compromise language that will save the industry, but you can read the gist of it here). They’ll try to convince you that the new administration and Congress will bring an end to the reform, but they won’t tell you we have bipartisan support from groups as diverse as the Kochs and the ACLU. They’ll tell you that PBUS sent a letter – just yesterday – to the Ohio Sentencing Commission, and then I suppose it will dawn on them that the same day they trashed me by name on their website. Do you think the people from Ohio will look at one and not the other? I know those people, and they know me. Heck, I was on the email list that received the PBUS letter. So, overall, do you think that was a good strategy – “Please help us, but look at what we do to people who don’t?” Ask your PR firm. People remember these things and they all sink in. You’re going to hear a lot of upbeat things, but only because you keep them in business.
 


Don’t be fooled, bail agents. They’re using your money to fight everything that comes their way and hiring a PR firm to make you think they’re winning. They have to, because they’re not winning, and the alternative – to help bail agents survive this generation of bail reform – is not part of their strategy. But the reality is that there’s simply no place in the future of American pretrial release and detention for bail insurance companies. Those big numbers are coming down, and if you don’t have big numbers, you don’t need insurance. Their demise was bound to be messy, but you don’t have to let them drag you down.   


You all need to hire someone really smart (heck, hire the insurance lobbyist – he’s really smart), and tell him or her to think outside the box, ditch the “fight everything” strategy, and see if he or she can somehow convince all the other states to forget about all the previous nastiness and to take you seriously as a part of the system. The insurance companies will never do that for you. ABC and PBUS will never do that for you. Here’s the warning: you need to break loose, or you’ll be out of business. You know what I’m talking about.