Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Those Disingenuous Bail Insurance Companies

If you look on the various websites from the bail insurance companies, they’re full if “shocking” accounts of so-called dangerous people being let out of jail in New Jersey, presumably in an attempt to scare people away from bail reform.

Of course, the insurance companies don’t tell anyone that if the judge would just put a bit of money on someone’s head, they’d be glad to help them get out of jail no matter how dangerous they are. We all remember that’s how it worked before, which is why those companies are getting their hats handed to them lately. Saying that the new way of doing things is somehow a “public safety concern” when there is nothing that bail insurance companies do or have ever done to protect the public is pretty sad.  

Under New Jersey’s new bail law, if someone is truly a danger to the public, he or she can be detained without bail. In the old days, those dangerous people would just pay some money to get out and – get this – if they broke any laws while they were out on bail, they wouldn’t even have to forfeit the remainder. That little glitch in the system was brought to you by – yes, that’s right – the bail insurance companies.

Over the last several decades, the bail insurance companies have systematically helped to erect a system that keeps them as far away from defendant behavior and public safety as possible. So they really shouldn’t be surprised that when a state starts really caring about public safety at bail, it’d leave them out. This is just an example of chickens coming home to roost.  

Two idioms in one post?

Must be the caffeine.

Friday, January 20, 2017

What Would MLK Say?

Leave it to the bail insurance company lobbyists to spin a holiday like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  On Monday, ABC posted a nice little story about a guy who once bailed out Martin Luther King. If you read the article, you’ll see that King’s bail out was just a single noteworthy episode in one man’s long and interesting life. No details or anything; just that it happened. I suppose ABC wants people to think, “Hey, look at us. We bailed out Martin Luther King, Jr. We’re great!”

But there’s another guy who bailed out Martin Luther King, and that story’s more telling. In 1963, King was arrested for conducting a parade without a permit in Birmingham, Alabama, and was told he couldn’t leave jail without posting $5,000. Who knows, maybe that amount was appropriate for a permit-less parade, right? Maybe the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was “high risk” to flee or commit serious or violent crimes while on pretrial release. Maybe he had “burned all his bridges,” as the insurance lobbyists like to say, because the $5,000 kept him in jail. Nope, none of that.

A.G. Gaston bailed out King, but only after convincing him that the civil rights movement needed him more outside of jail than in. You see, King wanted to remain in jail to highlight an unjust system. It was part of the “jail, no bail” policy started in 1960 by activists who reasoned that paying bail or fines indicated an acceptance of an immoral system and also depleted their resources to participate in the movement.  

So King got out, but not before he wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” in which he explained to other clergymen why he chose to travel to places far from his home to willfully disobey what he considered to be immoral laws. As King wrote, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.”

The thrust of King’s letter goes to the heart of what it means to do civil disobedience. People have a moral responsibility to obey just laws, King wrote, but they also have a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws even as they pay the price for doing so. Quoting Saint Augustine, King wrote, “An unjust law is no law at all,” and to prove his point, King pointed to numerous atrocities committed by Hitler’s Germany, all of which were legal, just as helping Jews or other enemies of Hitler was deemed “illegal.” King wrote: “To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”

I defy any bail insurance company to argue how America’s bail laws – which base freedom and liberty on one’s wealth – are in any way rooted in eternal or natural law. These laws were created by a class of persons who had money, with no thought whatsoever as to how they might degrade the human personality and spirit through their implementation. We are beyond explaining how money is unfair and doesn’t work. To the extent that governments continue to allow money bail despite these facts means that they are willfully committing immoral acts against their own citizens, a reality that cannot be allowed to continue.

King had more important things to talk about in his letter than bail – homes and churches were being bombed, people were being killed, and the government was condoning a “brutal” form of segregation that required drastic action to curtail. But if he were alive today, I’m convinced that King would be the first to say that even though America’s bail laws are “legal” in the sense that they were once passed by our nation’s lawmakers, they are nonetheless unjust and immoral.

That’s why people are traveling across America today to fix our broken bail system. King traveled to Birmingham because the injustice was in Birmingham. We travel, too, to find and fix injustice.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Wow, What a Week in Bail Reform!

This week there were six or seven big things happening in bail reform, and if I say they're big, they're really big. Some of them are behind the scenes, however, so I don't expect the bail insurance folks to even know about them. But a few of them aren't, and so if you don't see anything much in their blogs, you'll know they aren't reporting on everything that's currently going on.

One blog, however, is again asking bail agents to cough up even more money to help the insurance companies to fight everything. Like you all don't give them enough? They make billions per year. How much do you make?

I blog about helping bail agents find a place in the future of pretrial release and detention because I personally know a few really great bail agents, I understand their place in history, and I feel partly responsible for people calling for their complete and total elimination. But those blogs can only go on so long.

Today there's probably still a bit of hope. But when I finally stop blogging about bail agents changing their strategy by getting away from the insurance companies, you'll know I've decided it's a lost cause.

Friday, January 6, 2017


One of the major bail insurance companies recently posted an article on Facebook from the Washington Post, which was titled, "In D.C. The Federal Government Gives Released Criminals Many Chances to Fail."

Then, commenting on the story, the insurance company said:

The Public Sector Utopian Model of Washington D.C. is the best pretrial program ever 
conceived . . . IF YOU ARE A CRIMINAL! Check out this new article that highlights the many failures of this so called perfect model program. It is time for the rest of the country (New Jersey, California, Texas, Maryland) to call out the lies of the public sector release advocates and shine a light on what they are truly selling us . . . LESS ACCOUNTABILITY, INCREASED COSTS, MORE CRIME AND THE COMPLETE BREAKDOWN OF THE INTEGRITY OF OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

The only problem?

Well, the only problem is that the whole article was about sentencing. You know, not bail. Post-conviction. Not pretrial. CSOSA, not PSA. We don't need sock puppets, do we?

I've said this many times before. The insurance companies don't really even understand bail. And yet bail agents everywhere are relying on these companies to design and implement a strategy to get them through this generation of reform.

The insurance companies pay the lobbyists and give them their orders. Right now, their orders are to fight to keep the status quo, which has no plan for bail agent involvement in any future system of release and detention. So unless bail agents figure out a way to separate themselves from the insurance companies, I predict weeping and gnashing of teeth.