By Stacie Rumenap, June 19, 2018
Photo by Daniel Schwen/Creative Commons
I go to work each day to protect our nation’s most vulnerable — our children. As president of Stop Child Predators, it’s my job to educate families on sexual assault prevention and to stem the tide of dangerous trends that allow predators to roam our streets and commit such grotesque crimes in the first place.
That’s why I am surprised that proponents of bail reform are calling for changes that will make it easier for criminals to get out of jail and recommit crimes in Texas, a state that has historically remained “tough on crime.”
Bail reform, while being sold as a solution to help poor people, would significantly undercut public safety by eliminating cash bail and implementing risk assessment tools in its place.
The risk assessment tools used to decide who should be jailed are the equivalent of a magic eight ball. These tools often do not consider any history of criminal offenses outside of Texas, and the results are often kept secret from the public.
Studies have shown these algorithms do not reduce recidivism, do not reduce failure to appear, and do not reduce jail populations. Additionally, these tools are largely unproven, unreliable, and racially biased. Yet, many in Texas wrongly believe them to be a solution for freeing poor people who cannot afford to post bail — even though these tools are not designed to determine who is or is not poor.
Like many Texans, I share these concerns for the poor. But the substitution of a magic eight ball for the judgment of seasoned, elected judges raises public safety concerns.
These reformers are not taking into account the impact bail reform will have on victims of sexual assault, especially child victims of sexual assault. The silence has been deafening. Bail reform has resulted in widespread release of defendants without bail and without consequence, raising alarming questions about public safety.
I speak with victims’ families on a daily basis. I know firsthand that victims of crime need assurance that their abusers will be held accountable in court. In Harris County, which is ground zero for Texas’ bail reform efforts, a whopping 43 percent of those mandated by a recent court order to be released without bail failed to reappear for court. Why? Because there is no way to hold these criminals accountable.
Victims of sexual assault, more than other crime victims, are often too afraid to come forward. They are unable to speak up about something so very personal and horrific. When victims do come forward, their courage is eviscerated when the defendant is released — without consequence — into the community and then fails to appear for court. This is made worse if the defendant commits another crime, becoming what law enforcement officers call a “frequent flier” offender.
Put yourself in a victim’s shoes and imagine living in a world where your offender is out of jail, roaming the streets with absolutely no accountability and little supervision from law enforcement.
This is not the type of environment we want to create for victims.
Holding abusers accountable is the cornerstone of our justice system, and it’s vital to victims’ healing processes.
Bail bond agents hold defendants accountable, encourage them to stay out of trouble, and ensure they show up to court on the appropriate date. Bond agents have a good track record of ensuring those awaiting trial are returned to court. While 43 percent of defendants released under the judge’s order failed to appear in Harris County, only 5 percent of those released under traditional bond agents failed to appear, and those subject to bonds are being tracked and returned to court.
Counties across Texas are now looking to follow in Harris County’s footsteps by releasing more defendants without bail, even in circumstances where defendants have failed to reappear for court before.
Doing away with the bail system would be an enormous blow to victims and put public safety at risk. Similar policies are already creating a revolving door of criminals in Texas jails, allowing defendants to skip out on court, traumatize their victims and commit new offenses.
It’s time to consider the rights of victims. Proper use of bail as defined currently under Texas law assures that defendants return to court so that victims’ voices may be heard. Sacrificing public safety isn’t the answer.
Texans must act, and act now to encourage officials to say no to bail reform.
President, Stop Child Predators
PROPER COURTROOM CONDUCT
There is a level of dignity that you are expected to adhere to in the court room. In order to show respect, dignify the court and facilitate justice, these are common court rules:
All parties should arrive on time to court proceedings.
Wear clothes that are modest, clean and which fit you well. Clothes don't have to be new but they should demonstrate that you understand that this is a serious occasion. Take off your hat in the courtroom.
Turn all electronic devices off or at least turn them on silent.
Do not chew gum, suck on candy or bring food or drink.
When the Judge enters the courtroom you must stand and remain standing until the Judge says you may be seated.
When the Judge leaves the courtroom remain standing until he/she is out of the courtroom.
No one may talk while the Judge is on the bench unless directed to do so by the Judge or by court personnel.
Address the Judge as “Judge” or “His or Her Honor”/”Your Honor”, or “Yes Sir/Ma’am” or “No Sir/Ma’am” during proceedings.
Offensive, vulgar, racist, sexist or obscene language is prohibited.
The court discourages bringing small children to court appearances; however, should they appear, they must remain under constant parental supervision. If they become disruptive take them out of the room.
Persons shall remain seated in the courtroom unless the Judge is taking or leaving the bench.
No one shall approach the bench unless directed to do so by the Judge or having received the Judge’s permission to approach the bench. Persons will not lean on the counter in front of the Judge’s bench.
What to do when you miss your court date.
When you have a court date you are required to be there. You need to do everything in your power to make it. There are very few excuses that the Judge hasn’t heard over and over again. Since your freedom can depend on it you should make it a priority. That being said sometimes things happen. If you miss your court date the Judge will issue a warrant for your arrest.
You should contact your attorney and bondsman right away. They will know what needs to be done to get you back in good standing with the court. The process of getting the warrant recalled and getting a new court date will depend on where you missed court. Every court is different and has their own procedure for dealing with it.
The worst thing you can do is ignore it or put it off. In most cases we can work with you and get you a new court date. If you ignore it we may not want to work with you and bond jumping is a felony so that can add a new charge and a new problem.
To many times we have clients who are arrested before they get it taken care of because they were either afraid of going to jail or they were waiting until it was more convenient for them. If you get arrested there is a good chance that your bond will be raised and it will cost you more. The bondsman, your attorney and the Judge will be less likely to want to help you because you didn’t help yourself.
In Cleveland County we frequently accompany our clients to court and agree to remain on the bond. In Oklahoma County there is a form we sign and your attorney can take it to the Judge to get the bond reinstated. Call us and we will help you because that is our job.
Defending Bail: A Quest for Truth
BEHIND THE PAPER WITH ERIC GRANOF
Over the past several weeks, I have been on an important quest across the country. Okay, it’s not really a quest, but it sounds a whole lot better than simply saying I have been travelling around a lot. From PBAI to CBAA to OBAA to PBT, this month-long adventure has taken me through 4 different states, 12 different cities and countless Uber rides. I have spent hours talking with and listening to various criminal justice stakeholders discussing the state of our criminal justice system. I have had discussions with district attorneys, victim advocates, law enforcement professionals and even judges. I have heard and debated different perspectives on how best to improve our system to be more fair and equitable. I have also talked with bail agents about what is really going on in their local communities and how these soft on crime bail reform policies have made communities less safe and criminals more dangerous.
While each person that I spoke with brought a unique perspective to the discussion, each one ultimately came together with the same conclusion…usually one of confusion and serious disappointment. In other words, everyone I spoke with thought that these reforms were bad public policy and they couldn’t understand why they were being promoted to the public.
Overwhelmingly (and unfortunately so) the majority of my conversations have been focused more on the negative than the positive. And by negative I am talking about the negative consequences and impacts that these reforms are having in communities all over the country. It really is amazing to watch how quickly crime increases when you decriminalize and reduce the punishment for breaking the law (actually it isn’t all that surprising). It is even more amazing to watch the supporters of these failed policies try so hard to explain that their programs are actually working when they very obviously aren’t.
One of the most interesting aspects of my travels has been that whomever I am talking with, whether it was someone from law enforcement or a judge or even a bail agent, the conversation always touched on in some way “how do we protect the rights of crime victims” and hold criminals accountable.
What makes this not just interesting but rather astonishing is that when you talk with anyone who supports bail reform, rarely if ever do you hear them mention a crime victim. They talk about fairness, they talk about the poor, they talk about social justice, but for some reason…they never talk about crime victims. Why is that? Who knows…maybe it is because they truly don’t understand how victimization occurs? Maybe it is because they believe people only commit crimes because society has failed them and hence they are the real victims. Whatever the reason, it makes absolutely no sense to me and most of the people I have spoken with.
I have said this a thousand times and will probably say it a thousand more, but the bail industry is the most misunderstood profession in existence. Most people have no clue how it works and the important role that it plays in the criminal justice system. To say that this lack of understanding is an Achilles heel for us is an understatement. Opponents of the bail industry have capitalized on this lack of understanding and spread false and misleading information to demonize and vilify an entire profession.
In fact, according to these opponents, I don’t think there is a single social ill that the bail industry isn’t responsible for. Everything from homelessness to unemployment to drug addiction and even death…the bail industry is the root to all evil in the world. I am not sure how they can honestly make these types of broad based accusations, but that is the song they are singing, and unfortunately people are listening to them and starting to sing along.
It is time for our industry to redefine our message and commit ourselves to educating stakeholders in our communities in the right way…with the truth. The bail industry has never been about the guilt or innocence of the defendant/accused, but rather it has always been about justice for the victim. The bail industry doesn’t release defendants from jail, but rather ensures that they show up for court (two very different concepts). The bail industry doesn’t create victims, but rather supports and helps victims have their day in court. The bail industry isn’t a broken link in the criminal justice system, but rather it is in my opinion the strongest link that keeps the wheels of justice turning fairly and responsibly for everyone.
So as I set off for another leg of my quest, I will keep talking and keep learning about this great industry and profession. I will also keep educating anyone and everyone about the important and essential role that bail plays in keeping communities safe by holding those accused of crimes accountable. I hope agents all over the country will join me in this quest. This isn’t a race or a contest with one person getting the credit. It is fight for survival in which each and every one of us must participate. Good luck and safe journeys.
Eric Granof is the Vice President of Corporate Communications for AIA Surety.
Image Copyright: rdonar / 123RF Stock Photo
What it means to cosign for someone to get out of jail
As the Indemnitor (co-signer) on a bond YOU are liable for the amount of the bond if the Defendant does not show up for court and the bond is forfeited.
If we are unable to locate the Defendant and we have to pay the court YOU are responsible for that amount. The bond premium is non-refundable no matter what.
If we are required to have someone pick him up and put him back in jail YOU are responsible for that fee. The fee to pick someone up is usually 10% of the bond or a $200 minimum.
If you feel that the Defendant is a flight risk then call us and we will send someone to pick him up. YOU will be responsible for that fee.
You can't be released from the bond unless the case is exonerated (meaning the Defendant has pled or been found guilty or the case is dismissed).
If the Defendant is back in jail in the county he was bonded from and you have notified us you want to be released from the bond we should be able to do a recommitment. If the Defendant is in jail in another county and you want off the bond notify us and we will do the proper paperwork to get off the bond. You are not released from the bond until the proper paperwork is filed.
It is my job to make sure the Defendant makes his/her court dates. If for some reason the Defendant fails to appear call immediately and let me know so that we can fix it before a warrant and bond forfeiture are issued. If you have any questions feel free to call me anytime.
If you or the Defendant move or change your address, phone or place of employment notify us immediately.
Always remember to tell us if you change your address or phone number.
We are always willing to help you if you just ask.
We have already heard every excuse imaginable. You will need to be really good to come up with one we haven’t heard before. That goes for everyone at the jail and the courthouse. (We are impressed if we hear a new one).
We do this every day and we understand the process. Listen to us before you listen to your friend who knows someone who got arrested once.
We are not attorney’s and can’t give you legal advice.
Remember if you’re in jail you don’t have to pay an electric bill or car payment or whichever other excuse you have for not paying us.
I didn’t understand what I was signing. We explain everything and give you paperwork that explains it. It is a legal contract just like a loan. You can’t call and say you changed your mind about cosigning for someone after they are out or have failed to appear.
When you ignore us it is a very big deal.
Always show up for court even if you think you may go to jail. We can always rebond you and we respect that you showed up.
We know when you are lying to us and even if we don’t call you on it we remember.
To make life easier for our clients we now have a new app.
If you fill out the info in advance it has a panic button that will immediately send us a text if you push it when you are arrested. It gives us the phone numbers of the people you would like us to contact. We can start working on your bond before you even reach the jail.
You can also:
Call us or get our address
Make a payment
You can do your weekly checkin without calling
You can update your info with us.
Request a warrant search
and many other features
Eric Granof is the Vice President of Corporate Communications for AIA Surety.
Bail Reform Marketing 101: The Myth of 62
BEHIND THE PAPER WITH ERIC GRANOF
If you have ever taken a marketing and communications class in school, one of the first lessons you learn is that perception is stronger than reality. If you can get consumers to perceive that your product or brand is more reliable, or more effective, or safer than the competition, the reality of that truth becomes less important. Now don’t get me wrong, facts always matter in marketing, but if you can connect with people in an emotional way beyond the facts, then you can convince them of almost anything.
Now one paragraph into this blog, you are probably asking yourself, “Eric, this is all fine and good, but what the heck does it have to do with Bail Reform?” My response to you is, “Everything!”
The proponents of public sector pretrial release and the social justice advocates behind the bail reform movement have been running one of the best marketing campaigns I have ever seen. While they are not selling a product or service, they are successfully selling an ideology. While their customer is not the average Joe on the street, their customer is likeminded politicians and judges who share the same belief system. Even if we all completely disagree with what they are doing, you have to give them credit for running a convincing campaign. As I mentioned previously, the strength of any marketing program isn’t the strength of the reality behind it, but rather the perception you are able to create. These so called social justice warriors have not been selling reality, but rather they have been selling a perception of reality that is based solely on their ideology with very little facts.
That being said, perception has its lifespan just like everything else. You can create the perception and enjoy the benefits of that positioning for a period of time, but ultimately, if the facts and reality don’t catch up to the perception and support it, you will lose credibility all together. For example, Volvo’s will only be perceived as the safest cars on the road, as long as people do not die driving them. Sony products will only be seen as the most reliable as long as their products keep working. Public sector pretrial release programs and electronic algorithms can only be sold as effective tools as long as they perform at that level. See where I am going with this?
The public sector pretrial community has created a perception that they are solving a dire problem in the criminal justice system. That problem is based on one key marketing talking point (notice how I didn’t use the word fact?). That talking point is that 62% of people sitting in jail at this very moment are there for the sole reason that they cannot afford to pay for a bail bond. This one concept is the pillar behind their entire movement. They have created a narrative and sold it to influencers inside the criminal justice system as truth. They use fancy marketing brochures and websites. They created viral online videos and PowerPoint presentations that all perpetuate this “myth of 62%.” They use language that is more visual and disturbing to people like “people languishing away in “cages” as opposed to jail cells because while one draws up images of bad guys being locked up deservedly in jail, the other one draws up images of people being undeservedly locked up and treated like animals…which do you think is more effective? And how do we know at the end of the day that their marketing is working? Just listen to those that they have sold it to and you will hear them regurgitate the same language and the same talking points, including the most important one of all, the mythical 62% number.
Just for the record, the reality is that 62% of people in jail are NOT there because they can’t afford a bail bond. There are several legitimate studies that refute this number and actually prove that the number of people who are in jail solely for the reason they can’t afford bail is as low as 1-2% of the population. In fact, most jail populations only have a bailable population of around 10%. The remaining 90% of defendants aren’t even eligible for bail. But this fact doesn’t align with the bail reform marketing campaign. This fact doesn’t support their powerful emotional claim of 62%. My guess is that the truth didn’t test as well in the focus group, so they decided to ignore it.
As I discussed previously, the one way to combat perception or shall I say misperception in this case is to let it run its course and ultimately be overtaken by the facts. This is what is happening in New Jersey. The voters in New Jersey were sold a marketing campaign entitled “Bail Reform.” The narrative simply put was that “Innocent people were languishing away in cages because they were poor while guilty and dangerous people were being let out because they had money. Who in the world wouldn’t vote for something to solve this problem? And Bail Reform was passed. Now comes the reality. As of January 1st, the so-called magical bail algorithm was unveiled and the computers took over. Now with a simple questionnaire, public sector pretrial advocates can tell you all about a defendant, including whether or not they are going to show up for court, whether or not they will commit another crime if released from custody and they might even tell you what the defendants like for breakfast…that is, of course, if the algorithm has been validated appropriately. Based on this magical algorithm, judges are now told what to think and what to do. The result, child molesters are being identified as “low risk” and released for FREE on a promise to appear in court. Drug dealers are being identified as “low risk” and released for FREE on a promise to appear in court. Defendants who have assaulted police officers are released for FREE on a promise to appear in court. Instead of punishing people who commit crimes, New Jersey is now rewarding them by releasing them with zero accountability. Have you ever heard the saying, if you reward bad behavior, you can only expect one thing…more bad behavior. I think New Jersey communities won’t just be hearing that statement but experiencing it for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, the public soon sees the reality of this misguided and dangerous marketing campaign they bought in before crime reaches new astronomical records and the rule of law goes away.
Another way to combat the myth of bail reform and the factless marketing campaign is to not just sit around and wait for the truth to catch up, but rather to speed the process along and perpetuate the truth. Once again, New Jersey is the best example to share on this. Several concerned parties, from law enforcement to bail agents to community members, have all taken to social media to spread the stories of the bail reform marketing campaign’s deceitful lies and empty promises. Story after story of dangerous criminals being released into the public is being shared with a broad spectrum of people across the state and the country. Each story shared puts a crack in the foundation of the bail reform lie. Each story shared puts a glimmer of truth into the narrative and opens people’s eyes to the mistake that was made. Hats off to New Jersey for having the courage to step up and pull back the curtain and unveil the myths and lies that the bail reform movement is built on. I invite everyone to visit this group online and share their stories at ... aiasurety.com/bail-bond-blog/bail-reform-marketing-101-myth-62/
From New Jersey to Texas to California, the Bail Reform Marketing Campaign is in full swing. But reality and facts are following close behind and when they start revealing themselves in the form of crime increases, failures to appear for court, and more people in jail than there were previously, then maybe then people will wake up and realize the mistakes of their actions. Until that time, I encourage every concerned citizen, every law enforcement supporter, every bail agent and every victim advocate to share the truth about the failures of bail reform. Combat the myths with the truth. Demand that your lawmakers first understand the problems facing the criminal justice system, before buying the so-called FREE shiny new product being sold to them that will save them money and solve all their problems.
Does our criminal justice system need reform? Absolutely! Do we need to find ways to reduce crime? Absolutely! Do we need to find ways to treat people more fairly? Absolutely! Do we need to find a way to make sure the rights of victims are protected? Absolutely! Is getting rid of the bail industry the solution to achieve those things? Absolutely Not!
It is time to start having a grown-up discussion that involves facts and truths and less emotion and ideology. It is time to stop marketing lies and empty promises and focus on solving problems. Then, and only then, can you truly improve and reform the criminal justice system.
Eric Granoff is the Vice President of Corporate Communications for AIA Surety.
There are several scams that have been going around the past few years that target bail bond clients. The ones I have heard of are listed here:
Someone calls you and tells you a family member is in jail in some other state and needs you to wire money to the bondsman to get them out. As bondsman we do call family members sometimes because the client is only able to make a few calls and most are collect but any reputable bondsman will encourage you to check call the jail or to check them out and will not pressure you to pay anything without verification.
Someone calls a bail bond client who was recently released from jail and claims they are from the insurance company and demands that you wire money to them in another state to pay for the bond or you will be arrested immediately. Always call your actual local bondsman and verify I can’t think of any reason you would get a call from the insurance company asking for payment.
We actually had a client tell people she worked for us and when they had a person get arrested they called her and she met them and pretended to do paperwork and took $500 cash from them. We found out who she was (used her real name and they knew her) and put her back in jail.
We had a person call a few weeks ago asking when her boyfriend was getting released because she met someone in front of our office and did paperwork and gave them $500 for a bond. It wasn’t a bondsman. I asked her if she wondered why they didn’t come inside. She thought it was weird but trusted the friend who recommended her.
A few years ago there was a woman who didn’t speak English who gave a person $1000 to bond her husband from jail because the woman claimed she worked for a bondsman and could get the bond done. This woman was in the country illegally and was afraid to report it.
A person claims to be a deputy or police officer and tells you that you missed jury duty or have speeding tickets or whatever excuse they can come up with and states that you have a warrant and unless you give him a credit card number he will come and arrest you.
You should always call the Police and report anyone trying to scam you. It may save someone else from getting ripped off.
You may think that all bonding companies are the same. We all do the same job and basically charge the same amount of money. That is far from true. Bail Bonds is an extremely competitive business and there are many options. As with any profession we have a few bondsman who don’t operate ethically and many who go above and beyond to help their clients.
Some things to consider when choosing a bondsman are:
Is the company well known and do they have a good reputation in the community?
A good reputation is important in any business and every bondsman will have people who are unhappy with them. Bondsman are especially prone to this because when clients fail to appear and refuse to take care of it we have to put them back in jail because our job is to get our clients in court.
Does the business show up on online?
If the company doesn’t show up online at all that is a sign they haven’t been around long or won’t be around much longer.
How long have they been in business?
It’s a good sign if they have been around at least a few years. It takes a few years to really learn the business.
Do they have good online reviews?
Online reviews can give you an idea of how the company treats it’s clients. There are some people who can never be happy but the majority should be
Do they have a physical office address?
Do they have an office or do they only have a cell phone? If you have a problem and need to find your bondsman do you know where to go. There are people out there who pretend to be bondsman just to get your money.
Are they helpful and friendly on the phone?
Do they explain the process to you or are they condescending and speak down to you? Do you feel they understand the process? Are they familiar with the county where you need a bondsman?
Everyone knows that I am against 780. One of the scariest things about it is that heroin will be a misdemeanor every time. Heroin is a very deadly drug. I can't count the number of lives I have seen ruined by that drug. It's hard to kick the habit and some of my clients end up on Methadone for the rest of their lives. I have had clients who died from using heroin. They are usually young people with small kids or teenagers who haven't lived yet. People don't get sent to prison on the first or second sometimes even the third felony. Yes we need more treatment options but that is more of a mental health issue. I have a teenage son and I don't want him to grow up in a state that thinks heroin should be a misdemeanor. Just because the commercials are repeatedly telling you it's a "smart justice reform" it's not. I read that if this passes we will have the most liberal drug laws in the U.S. Do your research please!
We encounter people practically every day who don’t have a clue about how bail bonds work. I will try to explain it as simply as I can. If you or your family or friend are arrested and want out of jail, then there are a few options to consider. When a person is arrested, most counties have a bond amount set specific to your charges. Let’s say your friend’s bond is $5000. You could put up the $5000 cash yourself or hire a bondsman.
We charge 10% of that amount or $500. Most bondsman do, but we do have a minimum charge of $150. Once we are in touch with a family member or friend who qualifies as a cosigner we meet and do the paperwork and collect the money. We then take a bond for $5000 to the Detention Center and the defendant is released.
When we post a bond for $5000 we are guaranteeing the Defendant will appear for ALL of his court dates. If the Defendant misses court, we have to find them or pay the $5000. The cosigner is responsible for the $5000 or our expenses getting the Defendant back. That gives the cosigner a very good incentive to help us. The $500 is our fee for posting the bond or letting you use our $5000. It’s like interest on a loan. When the case is finished and the Defendant has appeared as directed our $5000 is released.
My name is Connie Allbritton and I own Big Red Bail Bonds Inc. I have been a bondsman for over 20 years. I worked in Grady County for 11 years and I have been in Cleveland County since 2005. Our company is mostly family. My nieces, one daughter in law and a cousin are bondsman in Cleveland County. My two oldest sons are in McClain County. We have agents in other counties but our two main offices are in McClain and Cleveland.
I enjoy my job and that is a rare thing in this world. I feel like I help people who are having a very bad day and that makes me feel good plus it is really never dull and I am the boss. HAHA! We all work very hard to make sure our company treats people well and is trust worthy. We answer the phone 24/7 and it is a rare occasion that we can’t be in our office within 20 minutes to post a bond for someone. It is important to me that the clients, detention center employees, court clerks and Judges all know that we can be trusted. Just last week a new attorney came to the office to learn about how bail bonds work. He had only been an attorney for about 3 weeks and he said 2 or 3 people he respected told him to come talk to us. We must be doing something right.