September is “Bail Month”…How to Celebrate With the Facts

I was pleasantly surprised this week when I was forwarded an announcement from the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) declaring the month of September, “Bail Month.”  Initially I thought, what a great idea, a whole month dedicated to discussing the benefits of commercial bail and sharing the facts on the effectiveness of the industry.  Especially since there is so much data available to PJI and their partner the Justice Policy Institute (JPI)…data that shows how effective commercial bail is and how ineffective pretrial programsare. To add to the excitement, earlier this month the Bureau of Justice Statistics declared 2013 the year of statistics.  Wow, a month dedicated to bail and a year dedicated to statistics, I can’t think of better environment to start a conversation about the commercial bail bond industry.  Let’s see, with so much research to share, where do you think the PJI and JPI partnership will begin?  Here are some good places they might consider…and just so you know when I say “places” I am talking about the volumes of research studies that they can tap into and share.  For example, there is:

  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics studies spanning 14 years (1990-2004) of release data in the country’s 75 most populous counties.  These studies (year after year) showed that commercial bail was the most effective form of pretrial release for both appearance and reduced recidivism.


  • The Tabarrok study, which assessed the failure to appear rates of several different types of pretrial release mechanisms, determined that commercial bail was the most effective way to prevent an FTA and ensure a defendants appearance in court.


  • The ALEC study completed in 1995 that assessed the failure to appear rate in California’s three largest counties and determined that commercial bail was the most effective form of release.


  • The ALEC study completed in 1997 that calculated a cost for a failure to appear in California’s three largest counties and determined that Pretrial release programs were potentially costing the counties millions of dollars.


  • The JFA Institute Study completed in 2012 that shows that a very small portion (13%) of those in pretrial status in Los Angeles County are eligible for bail and that the jails are not crowded because people are languishing away unable to afford a bail bond.


  • The University of Texas at Dallas Study that looked at 22,000 releases during 2008 and compared 4 types of release mechanisms, ultimately determining that commercial bail was the most effective way to ensure that defendants show up for court.  An additional finding from this study was that the cost of an FTA was discovered to be approximately $1800 per defendant.  Using that cost figure, it was determined that commercial bail saved Dallas County over $11 Million.

With so much research available to them, and remember it is the “Year of Statistics,” I wonder which study they will use.  Okay, to be honest, we all know which of the above studies they will end up using… NONE OF THEM.  So then the next question is what studies will they use that aren’t on the list above?  Once again, the answer is unfortunately and very predictably NONE.  Why?  Because no study exists or has ever been done that shows that releasing a defendant through a pretrial program is more effective than commercial bail.

So then why would PJI and JPI declare that September is Bail Month?  That is a good question?  The answer of course is not to promote bail, or even promote pretrial (because it is hard to do that without any statistics…and remember, 2013 is the year of statistics, right?).  The answer is that the pretrial community is going to ramp up their taxpayer funded anti–bail propaganda machine to once again spread lies and mis-information about the commercial bail industry (much like last year’s efforts which resulted in the creation of the War on Public Safety document by the American Bail Coalition).

The most unfortunate thing about this is that the pretrial community isn’t doing this because it benefits local communities and law enforcement.  They aren’t doing this to educated people on the benefits and effectiveness of pretrial release (because that would make sense…and also, because we know that is too difficult to fabricate).  They aren’t doing this because it benefits crime victims and various advocacy groups.  And they are definitely not doing this because it saves counties money and lowers recidivism rates.  Then why, you ask?  Because it serves the purpose of the pretrial supporters.  In their mind, they need to constantly justify how good they are by declaring how bad commercial bail is, and in doing so they are able to feel good about themselves.  The problem is feeling good about yourself and just saying you’re better doesn’t make you better.

If the pretrial community wants to declare September “Bail Month” then I think the bail community should fully embrace and endorse their call to action.  I move that during the month of September that the bail industry dispense and share “our” collective knowledge and research with those in the criminal justice system.  We need to make sure that the real “statistics” are being shared so that local jurisdictions can make the best criminal justice decisions possible.  It is time for the bail community to stand up and be heard and I can’t think of a better time to do so.  After all, it is Bail Month.

If you would like to receive copies of any of the above research studies, please visit our bail bond resource library and select which studies you are interested in.


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