Friday, February 3, 2017

American Bail Coalition’s PR Problem

Well, you know when someone has a public relations problem; it’s when they hire a big PR firm. ABC did that recently, and now that firm is peddling ABC’s lobbyist, offering to bring him all over the country for interviews about the horrible mess they call bail reform.

So what’s the problem? Well, for one thing, there’s no mess. Bail reform is going quite nicely, in fact. And that's a problem for ABC. 

So ABC’s PR company sent out a letter that lists a bunch of scary people who got out of jail in New Jersey without posting money bonds, and somehow the company hopes that people will think that’s some sort of travesty.

But they forgot to mention a couple of things in that letter. Like, they forgot to mention that, in the past, those same people would have been released by paying money to a bail agent, with no risk assessment or supervision. They forgot to mention that, in the past, if those people committed a new crime, neither they nor the bail agents would lose any money. They forgot to mention that, in the past, the judge would probably then just set another money bond and the same thing would happen again. In short, the old system in New Jersey was just a mess, and bail reform is cleaning it up. Oh yeah, and they forgot to mention that none of these scary people have done anything wrong while on release. Man, that is a PR problem!   

But really, ABC doesn’t need a PR company. It needs help keeping its story together. I mean, first it says that everyone has a right to bail, and then it acts like all the people they list are too dangerous to release. There’s oversight and accountability with a money bond? What kind of oversight? A bail agent with a contract to take someone’s mother’s car if he skips? In New Jersey, the new system has created an entity to supervise defendants for court appearance and public safety based on conditions designed from actuarial risk assessment. What kind of accountability? The fact that the guy’s family put up a jet ski? In New Jersey, the new system makes defendants accountable through pretrial supervision, sanctions for violations, ratcheting up conditions, and the possibility of new charges.

The Big PR Problem that ABC has is that the future of pretrial release and detention in America doesn’t include insurance companies that can afford to hire big PR firms on bail agent money but that never pay out on bail agent claims. The insurance companies’ problem is that bail reform is inevitable, and that due to their own lobbying efforts over the last several decades, they’ve ensured their own demise.

You know what? ABC won’t even know what I’m talking about when I say this, but the fact that they think bail reform is something that PR can solve, means that they’ve already lost.