Last week, Louisiana-based newspaper published an op-ed from from the Executive Director of the state's ACLU that essentially slammed the commercial bail industry.
Her perspective seems to be that the bail bonds industry is the root of the the problems in the Louisiana criminal justice system. Her thesis being that pre-trial defendant's are in jail because they are financially disadvantage and greedy bail agents want to keep the system in place.
This week, ExpertBail's Eric Granoff helped to set the record straight in his article "What's Right With the Louisiana Bail System?"
Granoff focuses the roll of jail and the bail industry in the criminal justice system at large. We find his points are worth recapping here.
Defendants are not bailed out because they are not eligible for bail
Ms. Esman claims that 80 percent of pretrial defendants in Orleans Parish Prison are behind bars for no other reason than their inability to pay for bail bonds.
What Ms. Esman fails to include is that not all pretrail defendants are eligible for bail.
While no specific study is available for the Louisiana jail system, Granoff cites a 2013 ACLU funded study (yes, funded by Ms. Esman's organization) of the Los Angeles jail system examining the reasons pretrial defendants are not bailed out. This heavily includes those who are simply not eligible for bail.
Here's a list of reasons defendants are not granted bail:
- Defendants who are there on immigration holds
- Defendants waiting transfer to another jail or prison
- Defendants already sentenced for another crime
- Defendants with outstanding warrants
- Defendants with specific “no bail” designations
- Defendants with assaultive crimes
- Defendants who are classified as high security
Ultimately, the number of pre-trial defendants who were in custody who were in fact eligible to hire a bondsman dropped to about 12 percent. Of those, most find a way to work with a bail agent to secure release.
Bail Industry Effectiveness
What Ms. Esman fails to address is the overwhelming failure rates of other types of pre-trial release, especially release on "Own Recognizance". Time and again, studies have shown that defendants who are released through "pre-trial services" (a catch-phrase for a promise to show up for court) are the least likely to show up to court when they are supposed to.
In fact, these defendants are 28 percent less likely to appear than those who have been released through the help of a bondsman. Not only does this cost taxpayers millions of dollars in administrative costs, most law enforcement agencies don't have the resources to track these individuals down.
The function of jails is to hold pretrial detainees while their cases are being decided in court. Stating the majority of people being held in a particular county lock up shouldn't come as a surprise.
The state of jail overcrowding is a significant societal problem. However, simply releasing defendants is hardly what's best for the community at large.