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.