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Bail Agents and Bounty Hunters: Adversaries or Allies of the Justice System?

NCJ Number
American Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 27 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2003 Pages: 145-165
Brian R. Johnson; Greg L. Warchol
Date Published
21 pages
This study presents an analysis of the role that bail agents and bounty hunters play within the criminal justice system.
The commercial bail/bond system is the oldest form of the pretrial financial release options available to detainees awaiting trial. Research literature concerning this system has focused mainly on its history, origins, practices, and legal challenges. The "myth" of the bounty hunter has emerged from this literature, but an accurate portrayal of the work of the bounty hunter is all but missing from the research literature. The article attempts to fill this gap by utilizing field research methods to analyze the role of bail agents and bounty hunters within the criminal justice system. After describing the history of the bail industry and its current structure, the article explains that the research methods involved covert participant observations. During a 14-month period, the authors participated in 23 successful or attempted apprehensions of "skips" in the Michigan area. The article describes both the corporate model and the sole proprietorship model of the modern bail industry and then describes the role of the contemporary bounty hunter, with particular attention paid to their function within the courtroom work group. The authors call for more research on bounty hunters because of their role both within, yet outside of, the criminal justice system. Most intriguing is that this group, while performing a criminal justice service, is unfettered by the constitutional restrictions that apply to traditional law enforcement officers. References