Bailing out the Bail System

It’s time to rethink how we deal with defendants awaiting trial.

(Page 2 of 2)

We’re in a transitional moment, akin to the period in the 1980s when email was edging its way into the mainstream but not yet ready or able to replace the U.S. Postal Service. Certainly it’s far too early to conclude that money bail is obsolete. Indeed, as a conditional form of pre-trial release, money bail is a relatively hands-off way to preserve one’s freedom: Pay it and your obligations have mostly been met. Just remember to show up in court when summoned! 

In other forms of pre-trial release, where behavioral conditions replace financial ones, that’s not always the case. In a July 2012 op-ed that appeared in The New York Times, law professors Dan Markel and Eric J. Miller noted how judges made one defendant write daily book reports and another purchase flowers for his wife as conditions for their pre-trial releases. In such instances, the professors concluded, the judges were essentially applying “punishments or moral education techniques” before the defendants had been convicted of a crime.

In other words, if you can afford bail, it might be your first choice—at least until mechanisms are put in place that keep judges from engaging in moments of premature adjudication. And if you can’t afford bail, you should have other options. 

That the traditional bail bond industry seems uninterested in expanding or improving those options hardly seems surprising—that’s standard operating procedure for any legacy industry with a proven business model to protect. But its preference for the status quo is no reason to ban it or other commercial parties from the domain of pre-trial release. Instead, bail reformers should be encouraging additional private competition. After all, the primary purpose of pre-trial release is to place checks on government power. Fostering companies whose profits come from keeping people out of jail is a great way to do that.  

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Pro Libertate||

    What, no Chico's Bail Bonds?

  • andrew79||

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job Ive had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringin home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link,

  • gaoxiaen||

    You're doing pretty well. Could you lend me some money to make bail?

  • Tim||

    "To make pre-trial release more equitable, JPI wants to “eliminate money bail” altogether. Failing that, it advocates “ban[ning] for-profit bail bonding companies.” In either scenario, it wants to expand the usage of government-funded pre-trial agencies "

    FOR PROFIT? The horror, the HORROR.

  • Arminda321||

    as Lisa explained I didnt even know that a student able to earn $8766 in 4 weeks on the internet. did you see this link

  • rts||

    Jonathan Mardukas: No, I don't have to do better than that, because it's the truth, I can't fly: I suffer from aviaphobia.

    Jack Walsh: What does that mean?

    Jonathan Mardukas: It means I can't fly. I also suffer from acrophobia and claustrophobia.

    Jack Walsh: I'll tell you what: if you don't cooperate, you're gonna suffer from "fistophobia".

  • ||

    Won't someone think of the bounty hunters? Especially Dog, the Bounty Hunter?!?

  • db||

    What about Ice, the Bounty Hunter?

  • Rhywun||

    the scent of Kim Kardashian

    Jesus... I'm eating here.

  • lucien||

    If you think Todd`s story is great..., three weeks ago my son also easily made $7802 sitting there sixteen hours a week from their apartment and there co-worker's aunt`s neighbour has been doing this for 8-months and recieved a check for more than $7802 in their spare time On there laptop. applie the steps on this page... and go to home tab for more detail---

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Todd's story and your son's story both suck

  • ||

    Judging from the amount, Todd's bail must have been about $50,000.

  • WomSom||

    These guys really seem to know whats going on ok. Wow, This makes a lot of sense.

  • ||

    What’s at issue is whether or not a defendant poses a danger to the community if released, and to what degree he’s a flight risk.

    I thought that only the second 'issue' was a valid one for bail determination. The first 'issue' sounds awfully like "protective custody" as utilized in the Third Reich (i.e. determination of "dangerousness" without full adjudication of the charge(s)).

  • analog2000||

    What you are missing is that most defendants do NOT go to trial. They plea bargain and forfeit their bail or bond. A private bondsman keeps the money you pay, regardless of what happens to your case. Also, even if you use a private bail bondsman, the court charges a fee to "supervise" the contract. That fee is NOT refundable. So even if you do go to court and are found not guilty, that money is the government's to keep. And with hundreds of thousands of people doing this every year . . . these aren't small dollar amounts.

  • hannah65||

    up to I looked at the receipt ov 7467, I didn't believe sister woz like they say truley taking home money in their spare time on their laptop.. there friends cousin haz done this less than twenty three months and as of now cleared the loans on their cottage and purchased Mazda MX-5. I went here,

  • ||

    The bail system imposes no real burden on the state though. In fact, as analog2000 points out above, it can actually be a nice little cash cow. Particularly in small communities, you'd be talking about a fairly substantial infrastructure build up to use monitoring instead (yes, Virginia, there are actual people living in actual towns in that inconvenient expanse between New York and L.A.). The monitoring could be outsourced, of course, but if a bail bondsman doesn't want to put up 2 grand to make 20 bucks off your bond, what makes you think a company is going to want to sink a substantially larger capital investment to make 2 bucks a day off your new anklet? I can't muster a whole lot of perturbation for this issue. Bail seems to work fairly well, and I like it better than an ever-larger surveillance state.

  • forestgombosi39||

    Anna. although Richard`s artlclee is nice, last monday I bought themselves a Mercedes after making $7877 this munth and-just over, 10 grand this past-munth. this is really the nicest-job I've ever had. I actually started 4 months ago and practically straight away began to bring home over $78... per-hr. I work through this link
    (Go to site and open "Home" for details)

  • quincy_85||

    If you think Ernest`s story is exceptional,, five weaks-ago my sister in law got a cheque for $8481 grafting sixteen hours a week from their apartment and they're friend's step-sister`s neighbour has done this for nine months and got more than $8481 part-time from there mac. follow the tips at this address,

  • Calion||

    Email in the 1980s? It existed, of course, but nobody but a few scientists and military people were using it. Perhaps you meant the 1990s?

  • Sesde||


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