In the late 2010s, bail reform movements built considerable momentum, mostly in the northeast and west coast. Then, one state’s misadventures put the brakes on this movement, at least for now.
In 2019, with much fanfare, New York eliminated its cash bail system. Many hailed the move as the dawning of a new era in criminal justice. These pundits also dismissed thoughtful criticism as undue alarmism. New York’s promised criminal justice utopia, which began in January 2020, crashed and burned in less than six months. After a rash of breakdowns, Governor Andrew Cuomo admitted defeat and ended most reform measures.
The cash bail system, which has been around for hundreds of years, is not perfect. In fact, in many ways, it needs lots of help. But, as is often the case, the answer is to address the problems in Montgomery County’s bail bond system and make things better. Fizer Bonding Company has been helping in the cash bail system by providing fast, easy and affordable bail bond services to Robertson and Montgomery Counties for over 35 years. Reinventing the wheel and employing an untested replacement usually just makes things worse.
Our Current System
The roots of Tennessee’s cash bail system go back some five thousand years, to Anglo-Saxon England. Back then, criminal “laws” were nonexistent. Allegedly violent criminals were locked away and allegedly nonviolent criminals paid whatever fine the king imposed. As the criminal law system evolved, the cash bail system evolved as well.
Today, there are basically three pretrial release mechanisms. Cash bail is like a rental property security deposit. Defendants pay a deposit. If they comply with all bail conditions, they get most of that deposit back. A bail bondsman near you prepares surety bonds, which are like insurance policies. If the defendant breaks a condition, the bail bond company bears the financial risk. Pretrial release, which basically lowers a criminal offense to the level of a traffic ticket, may also be available.
All three mechanisms include conditions which are designed to keep people safe. The first two also involve financial security. Most people value money above all other possessions. So, paying money is a good way to influence behavior.
Reformers and False Assumptions
Money is also one of the biggest problems in Tennessee’s bail system. Most families in the Volunteer State have less than $1,000 in savings. Many of them have nothing at all. So, in many cases, eight or nine hundred dollars in bail money might as well be eight or nine million dollars. Clearly, there’s something wrong with this picture. The Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents provides continued discussion on dispelling the myths of bail reform here.
For some reason, instead of focusing on this problem, many reformers cited two one-sided statistics. A wise man once said that “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” Maybe he was onto something.
Pundits pointed to the high percentage of unsentenced inmates in county jails. Statistically, nearly half of these prisoners are unsentenced inmates. To many, this figure stirs images of people who are languishing in the Tower of London. But this statistic is also a snapshot. Many of these inmates are in holding cells just waiting for their bail paperwork to go through.
Other reformers claimed that eliminating cash bail would save hundreds of millions of dollars. They calculated that, if jails were half empty, they would cost half as much. But that’s usually not true. Most jail costs are fixed. If you buy food for 1,000 wedding guests and only 500 show up, you still pay for 1,000 guests. Likewise, if the county buys food for 1,000 inmates and there are only 500, it still pays for 1,000 meals. So-called “jail bed savings” only kick in if the state closed half the jails. Even hard-line reformers did not advocate such a radical idea.
The Importance of Judicial Discretion
So, radical bail reform is unnecessary. Furthermore, as New York found out the hard way, it does not lead to a societal utopia or a financial windfall. It just makes things worse.
Furthermore, bail reform undermines judicial discretion. We trust judges to see both sides of the story and make fair decisions. Radical reformers assume that, for some reason, judges are incapable of making such decisions when it comes to bail bonds.
Judges are closer to these cases than bureaucrats. So, judges can account for a wide range of factors, such as the subtle facts in a case, which could and should affect bail amounts.
Some Potential Improvements
Experience shows that the cash bail system is clearly better and safer for the community than a pure pretrial release system. A few improvements could make the current Clarksville, TN bail bond system even better.
Technology is available to speed up the arraignment process. Currently, if an inmate cannot make bail or is ineligible for pretrial release, the inmate must often wait three days to see a judge and possibly get a bail reduction. That’s too long. Many lawyers, both prosecutors and defense attorneys, would gladly serve as special masters. If the defendant does not like the master’s recommendation, the defendant could still see a judge.
The pretrial release review process could be improved as well. Today, many inmates either automatically qualify or automatically do not qualify. A case-by-case review would be much better. Once again, there are many available lawyers who would gladly spend a few hours a week reviewing case files.
As mentioned above, there is a money issue as well. Money might be the problem, but it could also be the solution. In many cases, decisionmakers could lower the bond amount from eight or nine hundred to two or three hundred. That amount of money is still more than enough to get, and keep, most people’s attention and not skip bail.
At Fizer Bonding Company, we try hard to be part of the solution, as opposed to part of the problem. Our Clarksville, TN bail bondsmen work with incarcerated individuals and their loved ones every day. So, we are in a good position to assess what works, and what doesn’t work. For more information about bail bonds near you, contact us Fizer Bonding Company.
Our family owned company has been serving the bonding needs of Montgomery County over the past 40 years and is a proud member of the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents. We offer our bonding services for only 10% of the bond amount. For more info about Fizer Bonding Company bail bonds, click here.
“We’ll get your tail outta jail!”
Fizer Bonding Company in Montgomery County Tennessee
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