A press release was issued on February 24, 2016 stating that Congressman Ted Lieu (D – LA County, CA) has introduced the “No Money Bail Act of 2016”, a bail bonding reform bill which, if passed, could mean the end commercial bail in all fifty states. The press release is vague on details, but if the motives of the pretrial services lobby is any indicator, it means the corrupt, dishonest, and exploitive pretrial services lobby is going for the commercial bail bonding’s jugular.
Anyone familiar with the criminal justice system, pretrial services, and commercial bail, can recognize the nefarious and deceptive nature of this act in the first sentence of the press release.
Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) introduced the “No Money Bail Act of 2016,” a bail reform bill that seeks to eliminate the use of money bail because no one should be held in jail solely because of the inability to pay bail.
This claim of defendants being held solely because of bail money is an argument the pretrial services lobby have been making for years and it false and ridiculous on two counts:
- Allowing those who are unable to pay the bail bond and are of little flight risk is what pretrial services was created for. Back in the early 1960s, the Vera Foundation and New York University Law School conducted bail reform studies which were then used to argue for pretrial services. Those who have an inability to pay already do have a means to get out of jail, and that was one of reasons pretrial services was instituted.
- When commercial bail is removed, it does not eliminate the bond cost. There are currently states which have implemented ‘no bail’. The implementation of this requires the bond premium, usually 10%, to be paid in full before the inmate can leave. That bond premium is then paid back upon the completion of the case AND all court and jail fees are paid. In other words, it the government squeezing the bail money for itself as a prepayment for the court and jail fees.
Even if we give the benefit of doubt that pretrial services was created with the best of intentions, it has become one of the biggest injustices of today’s criminal justice system. It is placing punishment prior to conviction. When defendants are assigned to pretrial services, they are essentially placed on probation prior to being found guilty. For instance, they have to check in with the pretrial agent regularly, may have to submit to drug testing, attend drug, alcohol, or anger management classes. The pretrial services agent also has the authority to issue a capias against defendants, which lead to additional charges. This is very similar to being on probation or parole, except the defendants have not yet been tried.
This bill must be stopped. It would be wrong to allow pretrial services to take over commercial bail. The biggest reason is it would be a travesty to all future defendants to be forced to be processed by pretrial services rather that traditional bail agents. A detailed summary of why pretrial services is unjust and why their arguments against commercial bail bail are false is here, titled Pretrial Services: A Subversion of Justice.