Bail Bond Companies Save Dallas County’s Criminal Justice System Time and MoneyMonday, January 14, 2013
In a new independent study out of the University of Texas at Dallas, it was determined that the commercial bail bond industry is the most effective form of pretrial release. According to an article about the study published this weekend in the Dallas Morning News, the study took a look at 2008 data of over 22,000 defendants that were released from jail utilizing a variety of different forms of release including pretrial services, cash bonds, attorney bonds and commercial bail bonds. The study shows that those released on a commercial bail bond were more likely to show up for court than those released through one of the other three methods studied. The least effective form of release was through a pretrial service agency.
Why is appearance so important? Well, according to the article, “When a defendants misses a court appearance, the county has to spend time and money to track them down and issue paperwork. Also, it delays justice for crime victims and can result in risks to public safety.” Based on this statement and the results of the study, by ensuring the appearance of defendants, the commercial bail industry is not only saving taxpayers and the county money, but also at the same time ensuring the rights of crime victims and increasing public safety.
The conclusions of this study are not only important for counties all over Texas, but potentially for counties all over the country. As state can local criminal justice systems look for ways to save money without impacting public safety, commercial bail could be a welcome industry to turn to. Read the original Dallas Morning News Story, from Sunday, January 12 2013 below
New study shows a quarter of Dallas County criminal
defendants fail to show up for court
By KEVIN KRAUSE
Published: 13 January 2013 11:12 PM
One out of every four Dallas County criminal defendants fails to show up for court, according to a yearlong study by a University of Texas at Dallas professor.
In the county’s misdemeanor courts, almost 30 percent of defendants did not appear, according to the study by criminology professor Robert G. Morris.
However, the county’s rate of missed court dates in its felony courts — 19 percent — was slightly better than national numbers. A 2007 Bureau of Justice Statistics
report found that 23 percent of felony defendants failed to show for court from 1990 to 2004 in the nation’s 75 largest counties.
When defendants miss a court appearance, the county has to spend time and money to track them down and issue paperwork. Also, it delays justice for crime
victims and can result in risks to the public safety.
Morris’ comprehensive analysis is the first of its kind in Dallas County, officials said. They said they want to compare their numbers with those in other large Texas counties to see if they can make improvements and get more defendants to court.
“This creates a baseline for us. It gives us a starting point,” said Ron Stretcher, the county’s criminal justice director. “We will look at this and dive in some more and
see what changes we can make to improve that rate.”
The analysis didn’t cost the county anything except staff time to gather the data, but Stretcher said the county will consider paying Morris to continue studying court appearance rates. The county’s criminal justice advisory board will make recommendations on what to do and oversee any additional work, he said.
Morris approached county commissioners in 2011 about conducting the analysis. Commissioners accepted his offer, saying they wanted to find out which method
of pretrial release works best and saves the most money.
Releasing defendants while they await trial clears room in the county jails, saving the county millions of dollars that would have to be spent on food, medical service and housing.
The study, which examined the cases of more than 22,000 defendants who were released from the county jails in 2008, concluded that those released on
commercial bail bonds were more likely to show up to court than those who posted cash or obtained a pretrial services bond or attorney bond.
As a result, the study concluded that bail bonds — the most commonly used method of pretrial release — were also the most cost-effective.
Morris focused on 2008 data to allow enough time to see how the cases ended, whether the defendants showed up in court, disappeared and became fugitives, or
committed new crimes.
Stretcher said he wasn’t surprised that bail bonds are more effective. Bail bond companies, he said, have a financial incentive to make sure their clients show up in court. If not, they have to forfeit the amount of the bond to the county.
Pretrial services bonds were the least likely to ensure that Dallas County defendants got to court, the study said.
That’s because the county’s pretrial services department has just four officers and a supervisor, Stretcher said. Other counties, such as Harris and Travis, have
dozens of pretrial services officers. They monitor defendants and require them to report periodically and undergo drug testing, Stretcher said. Those counties report
that defendants released on pretrial services bonds are more likely to attend court.
Stretcher said there are plans to try and make Dallas County defendants who miss court pay the entire amount of the pretrial services bond, which officials hope
would improve court attendance. But typically, few of those defendants can afford to do so.
Morris also studied recidivism rates for those out of jail on the various types of bonds. He found that in felony court, those who posted a bail bond were more likely to reoffend within a year than those released on a cash bond, attorney bond or a pretrial services bond. But he noted that many other outside factors contribute to recidivism.
Morris’ study is likely to add fuel to a bitter competition in the U.S. between providers of commercial bail bonds and pretrial services bonds.
The commercial industry, which profits off jail releases, has waged a heated public relations war against pretrial services programs across the nation for years.
Both sides accuse each other of obscuring the facts.
Drew Campbell, spokesman for Dallas County’s bail bond companies, said local bondsmen feel vindicated by the study’s results but also want to continue to work
with the county to improve the system. He also said more study is needed to find out whether defendants are merely forgetting their court dates or becoming
“We don’t know why there is a failure to appear,” he said.
AT A GLANCE: Bailing out of jail
When someone is arrested, he or she can use several methods to get out of jail until the case goes to trial. The following are most commonly used in Dallas
Commercial bail bonds: These are the most common. Private companies post a bond that acts as insurance that the defendant will show up for court dates. The
defendant pays the bondsman a nonrefundable fee, usually 10 percent of the bond, and possibly collateral if required. If the defendant fails to show in court, judges
are supposed to forfeit the bond to the county unless the defendant is rearrested within a certain time.
Attorney bonds: Attorneys must seek authorization from the county to write these bonds for their clients. They are similar to commercial bail bonds.
Pretrial services bonds: The county issues these bonds to low-risk defendants accused of nonviolent crimes. The bonds cost $20 or 3 percent of the bond,
whichever is greater. The law allows the county to waive that fee. County staffers screen defendants to determine the likelihood of their returning to court. Once
released, they may be under county supervision, which includes electronic monitoring, drug testing and treatment requirements.
Cash bonds: The bond, usually in smaller amounts such as $500, is placed with the county. When the case has concluded, the entire amount is returned.
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News research