If you have picked up a paper recently you probably have seen story after story about crowded jails. Too many crimes being committed, but not enough jail cells to house those that break the law. So, you are probably wondering why the jails are crowded. Well the folks at the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), an organization dedicated to the elimination of commercial bail and other financial means of release, would like you to believe that the jails are crowded because people can’t afford a bail bond. In fact, according to their own research (which by the way, no one except them has seen), they state that anywhere from 60% to as high as 80% of the pretrial populations sitting in jail are stuck there because they can’t afford a bail bond.
The first question I have is where is the research? Show us the breakdowns of these populations and prove that people truly are “languishing” away in prison because of the bail bondsmen, who by the way do not set bail -- that's the judge's job. The problem is that there isn’t any research…at least none actually done by PJI…and to be honest, none that supports them as an effective source of pretrial release. If PJI only took the time to actually research the make-up of the jail populations as opposed to touring the country pitching national associations to sign resolutions of questionable merit and veracity supporting their FREE criminal welfare programs, they would see that the jail populations are comprised of many different types of individuals…most of whom can’t be released on bail…not because they can’t afford it, but rather because they don’t qualify. For example, some sitting in the county jail right now are the following types of individuals:
- Those being held on immigration violations – do not qualify for bail
- Those waiting to be transferred to a state prison – do not qualify for bail
- Those waiting to be transferred to another jail in another state or county – do not qualify for bail
- Those being held on probation violations or “blue warrants” – do not qualify for bail
- Those actually serving out their sentence in a county jail – do not qualify for bail
- Those that are deemed too dangerous for the community or are a flight risk – do not qualify for bail
- Those whose bail was set so inordinately high that they were never intended to be released anyway
- For those that do have a bail bond set, affording one is not a problem. With flexible financing and payment
options, bail bonds can be purchased quite readily.
So why are jails overcrowded if it is not that people can’t afford a bail bond? We think that is a good question and one that should be answered through research as opposed to just pointing at the usual easy target, the bail bondsman. In fact, a recent article in the Charleston Daily Mail, uncovered that probation and parole violations accounted for 38% of the jail population in a West Virginia jail (see the article by clicking the link: Parole violations add to jail woes). While this is only one glimpse into jail populations in West Virginia, it just goes to show that there are many reasons for jail overcrowding and not just the one of “not being able to afford a bail bond.” In fact, the Texas Public Policy Foundation recently commented on the topic of jail overcrowding by stating the following:
“The most important preliminary step available to counties seeking to reduce unnecessary pretrial incarceration is to review their jail population data to determine the number of defendants who are locked up solely because they could not afford a commercial bail bond.”
For years the anti-commercial bail PJI has targeted bail agents for extinction. We are a solution, not the problem with the criminal justice system. In fact, the bail industry is the only entity that “guarantees” performance in the criminal justice system…and if we don’t perform we pay the court. How does PJI respond when pretrial service agencies fail to perform, which they so frequently do? Now that is a question that needs an answer. What do you think?