January 21, 2010: National Public Radio story reveals that overburdened local governments spend over $9 Billion (with a B) Dollars housing people who have been arrested, are awaiting trial, and can’t afford to post bail some as low as fifty dollars. These are people a judge has determined are not dangerous, not a threat to society, not likely to intimidate witnesses, and not likely to run. They have not been found guilty. They simply have no money and are awaiting trial. Some plead guilty to crimes they have not committed just to get out of jail as waiting for a trial could take months or even years. To post bond, many people have to pay professional bail bondsmen a non-refundable percentage, usually between 10-15% of the bail to have the bail bondsmen pledge to pay the bail amount if the Defendant does not appear in court.
In some counties, taxpayers pay a quarter of every tax dollar housing these pre-trial arrestees. A law enforcement industrial complex has grown up around the practice of producing large profits for bail bonding firms. With these large profits, political lobbyists have followed close behind under the rallying cry “tough on crime” pressuring politicians, judges, and sheriffs to set high bonds and fighting pre-trial release programs which save taxpayers millions, and bail bonding firms see as stealing their business. In one particular case, a county has spent over $7,000.00 housing a man awaiting trial for stealing blankets to stay warm and if he plead guilty he would likely only receive a probation sentence. To read the story click here.