Sunday, October 20, 2013
Bail: Freedom, Capitalized
This video, produced by the ACLU and Beyond Bars, was posted in a story that appeared this week on The Nation, titled, Should It Cost Less to Get Out of Jail If You're Rich? It is an introduction to the bail bonds industry, its budgetary backing, and the way it affects people of different economic backgrounds.
Bail research is fascinating. In the late 1980s, Michele Sviridoff found out that judges gave a "discount" to defendants making bail in cash. G.P. Monks found that the police was ineffective in assuring that people showed up for trial. But research from 2011 shows the extent to which the bond industry has been privatized. Mary Phillips, doing research in New York, finds that bail bondsmen's share of the industry has significantly grown, and that their actions magnify the alredy-existing socioeconomic gaps. Brian Johnson and Ruth Stevens find that states place very few regulations on the bonds industry and on licensing to become a bail bondsman. According to this Justice Policy Institute report, the bail industry is not cheaper than the alternatives, and it is incredibly prone to overcharging and corruption. It is also backed by powerful profiteers. Shadd Maruna and colleagues even predict that people will be able to leave prison on parole after posting "post-conviction bail."
Conversations about prison privatization often ignore bail bonds, which are one of the first stops on the criminal justice train. It is worthwhile to take a look at costs, incentives, and class disparities even in these early stages of the criminal process.
Props to Amir Paz-Fuchs for The Nation link.