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USA Today Connects Fugitives and Failures of Public Sector Pretrial Release Programs

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

fugitive problemsIf you haven’t seen this USA Today article or the short video on fugitives, than you need to click on it below and watch it.  This morning, USA Today posted a powerful and compelling article on what happens when people don’t show up for court and how difficult it becomes to bring them to justice. The defendant referred to in the article was let out the door by the Philadelphia pretrial services program.  With failing pretrial practices over the past several years, Philadelphia’s public sector pretrial program has done nothing but produce circa 50,000 fugitives, and over $1 billion in lost forfeitures, resulting a near collapse of the City's criminal justice system.  As many states and counties around the country contemplate expanding or adding a pretrial services agency to their criminal justice system, this article couldn’t have come out at a better time.  Why?  Because it shows the ultimate failure of these get out of jail free programs and proves why the commercial bail industry is so important to our criminal justice system. 

When a defendant is let out through a pretrial service program, there is no true supervision.  Pretrial case workers do not have the time, resources or even incentive to ensure that the defendant under their supervision show up for court.  When they ultimately do not show, the defendant becomes a fugitive, a bench warrant is issued by the judge and it then becomes the responsibility of law enforcement to go apprehend the defendant.  As you can imagine, as the warrant pile grows and law enforcement gets spread thinner and thinner, fugitives can just about do whatever they want…until they get caught committing another crime and creating another crime victim.  

Now enter the commercial bail bond industry.  Not only does the commercial bail industry outperform all other forms of release at getting defendants back to court (with pretrial services performing the worst), commercial bail bond agents also outperform all other forms of release in getting those that miss court, back to court.  In other words, the commercial bail industry has no fugitive problem.  When someone fails to appear, they go get them.  Why?  Because they are financially on the hook to perform or else they pay.  Do pretrial services pay the court when their defendants don’t show up?  Absolutely not.  In fact, when someone fails to show up in a pretrial program, the cost counter starts to roll.  Suddenly this inexpensive program designed to save taxpayers money is now leaking money with the cost to the county of the failure to appear (determined to be almost $1800 per defendant in Dallas County) and then the cost of law enforcement resources to ge get the fugitive and of course the social costs of the fugitive committing additional crimes (until they get caught again).  Doesn’t sound like such a good cost saving move now, does it?  How much does the commercial bail industry cost the county?  $0!!! And it is more effective.

So next time, your hear your county talk about expanding or adding a pretrial program in order to save the county money and free up space in the jails, remind yourself and then remind them that increasing pretrial programs doesn’t save money or increase public safety, but rather the complete opposite.  Check out the original article and video below.

Original article: Fugitives go 'scot-free' in New Jersey; Thousands of Philadelphia fugitives can cross a bridge to get away

Written by: Eric Granof

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