As the No More Money Bail Act stumbled in Congress, bondsmen and bail bond agencies offer some food for afterthought. More items need to be considered before making critical changes in the criminal justice system.
The loudest voices in favor of the bill speak to the soft spot that all Americans share: equal opportunities and equal treatment. The nation is taking giant strides in both acceptance and equality amongst gender, race, and religion. This bill, however, is addressing the discrimination of people who have money, and people who don’t.
Relief for the rich and no mercy for the poor has been a common theme throughout history. It’s appropriate in some situations but not in others, as we may see here.
It’s All About the Money
The first function of monetary bail is plainly: withholding something that is valuable to the defendant, giving them all the reason in the world to return and face the charges against them – then returning that withheld asset.
Now, what is the thing that this nation values most? You got it, dollars and cents. If one cannot provide anything of value as a promise to return, what is to keep that individual to their word?
This idea has been around for centuries and continues to be because it simply works. If it’s not money, what is an alternative that is common amongst all people?
All Things Considered not Equal
The one facet of monetary bail that is consistently overlooked is that while there is indeed a bail schedule (a general guideline to match a bail amount to a charge) the judge has significant control over the bail amounts and stipulations. Many details are assessed to come up with the most suitable bail for the defendant. In fact, one of those details is how much money the defendant has and makes. It’s all about gauging flight risk.
Affordable Exit Strategies
The courts know that asking people for thousands of dollars is somewhat unreasonable. That’s where bail bond agencies come in. They charge a fee to post the bail for the defendant so that they can return to their lives while awaiting trial. Many of these agencies offer financing plans that are bearable, so then the idea that monetary bail is just for the wealthy begins to wain.
Self Sustaining System
Let’s take a look at what eliminating monetary bail will do to our, the tax paying citizens, pocket books. There are two streams of income that work here, the first is bond forfeitures.
When a defendant forfeits their bail bond and flees, the courts keep the money. That money counts as income and is put to work paying the court staff to continue their duties and paying for the costs of detaining individuals until their trial date.
The other source of income in play is the fee that bondsmen charge to post bail. That income covers a variety of things including: bounty hunters to capture fugitives, investigations to assess flight risk, and monitoring bailed defendants.
If those two incomes are terminated, who is going to pay for the those services?
Safety then becomes a huge issue. How would the police reasonably go about monitoring the defendants? Let’s not forget the majority of bailed defendants end up being charged as criminals. Would you want a horde of criminals hanging out in your neighborhood?
Finding an alternative that works better is the key. For now, the monetary bail method has the advantage in all categories.