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Bail Bonds and the Cost of Freedom: How Much Money Is Your Pretrial Services Program Losing Your County

Friday, January 18, 2013

UT DallasWith counties and states continuing to struggle with budgets, spending and revenues, we would like to propose a simple solution to the over 3,000 counties across America….use MORE COMMERCIAL BAIL.  If you are the average Joe on the street or even the seasoned legislator or county representative, you might be asking, why in the world someone would recommend that the commercial bail bond industry be utilized more to save the county money.  Well, the answer is simple: Bail Works.  The Department of Justice has shown for decades that commercial bail is the most effective form of pretrial release and now a new independent study out of Dallas County, Texas conducted by the University of Texas at Dallas, proves it even further. 

Earlier this week, Dr. Robert Morris, a research professor at the University of Dallas Texas, working in conjunction with the Dallas County Crime Commission, released the results of a study on the effectiveness and cost implications of Dallas County’s criminal justice system, specifically its pretrial release mechanisms.  There are four ways that defendants can be released pretrial in Dallas County.  These include: A commercial bail bond, an attorney bond, a cash bond and a government funded pretrial release program.  The study looked at over 22,000 releases that took place in Dallas County in 2008.  The results are not only impressive, but more importantly, very insightful…at least insightful to someone who is truly trying to find the most effective and efficient way to handle pretrial release populations. Below are a few of the most impressive findings:

  • When comparing similarly situated defendants’ probability of failing to appear for all case types, defendants released via commercial bond (i.e., a bail bond company) were significantly and substantively less likely to fail to appear in court compared to attorney bonds, cash bonds and pretrial release bonds, respectively.  This finding held when analyzing all defendants simultaneously and when assessing felony and misdemeanor defendants separately.
  • Assuming a public cost of $1,775 per failure to appear (i.e., justice administration), the use of commercial bail bonds saved over $7.6 Million among felony defendants and $3.5 Million among misdemeanor defendants.  The largest differences in costs were seen between commercial bail bonds and pretrial services bonds.
  • Failure to appear rates for all charge types:
      - Attorney bonds                34%
      - Cash Bond                       29%
      - Commercial Bond         23%
      - Pretrial Service Bond       37%

As you can see, once again, commercial bail outperforms all forms of release when it comes to getting defendants to court.  And commercial bail costs the county $0. In fact, based on this study, the commercial bail industry saved the county over $11 million dollars just by getting defendants to court.  In contrast, pretrial service agencies not only cost the county millions of taxpayer dollars to operate, they also cost the county money by underperforming and not getting defendants to court…a cost in Dallas county to the tune of several million dollars.

So the next time you see an article in your local paper about your county's decision makers thinking about limiting the commercial bail industry and instituting a pretrial release program in your community, send them a letter and attach this study.  It just might save your community millions of dollars and in the process keep you and your community safer.

If you would like a copy of the study, please send an email to