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For Better or For Profit: How the Bail Bonding Industry Stands in the Way of Fair and Effective Pretrial Justice

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2012
57 pages
This policy paper presents a rationale for eliminating for-profit bail bonding as a means of gaining pretrial release for defendants, and it argues for other methods of pretrial release, such as the use of pretrial services agencies to determine a defendant's risk for failure to appear at court and/or reoffend and then providing appropriate monitoring and supervision.
Basing a defendant's pretrial release on a bond provided by a for-profit private industry creates a system that is prone to corruption, criminal collusion, and the use of coercion against bonded individuals. This has resulted in a ban on for-profit bonding in four States. The bail bond industry touts its services as coming at no cost, but the system is very costly to the taxpayer and the individuals and families who enter into the bail bond agreement. Many of those who cannot or choose not to purchase a bail bond will remain in jail until their trial date, sometimes as long as a year. This has contributed to high jail populations, which is costly to taxpayers, defendants, and their families through the loss of employment and the ability to fulfill duties as a parent and spouse. The for-profit bail bond industry continues to prosper and grow despite decades of research and reform efforts. This is due largely to the political lobbying of the industry through the corporately financed American Legislative Exchange Council. The recommended alternative to this failed system is a government-funded pretrial system that involves statistically validated assessments of risk and a continuum of pretrial release options instead of money. This will result in reduced jail populations and needless stress on defendants and their families while taking into account public safety. 87 notes