Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bail Bondsman Claims Bonding Process Takes Too Long

The time it takes to bond an inmate out of the Benton County Jail varies substantially from Washington County, according to a bondsman who routinely writes bonds at both jails.

Curt Clark, a bonding agent with Action Bail Bonds, said on average it may take up to seven hours for the Benton County Jail to release someone after bondsmen give deputies the inmates' bonding paperwork.

Clark said at the Washington County Jail, he waits usually 15 to 30 minutes for an inmate to be released.

"I don't know what the problem is," Clark said of the Benton County Jail bonding process.

Capt. Hunter Petray, Benton County jail commander, said the time it takes to release inmates on bond depends how much paperwork they've accumulated. Court orders, property, jail records and bonding information are all checked before an inmate is released.

Deputies also verify the inmate doesn't have a warrant from another jurisdiction before release, Petray added.

One to two bonding deputies work each shift in Benton County.

Four detention deputies were recently assigned to work with Northwest Arkansas Immigration Criminal Apprehension Task Force, Petray said. Their loss means Petray's staff has fewer people to deal with matters such as bonds.

Petray asked to hire 10 deputies for the detention facility and was given two, he said.

The Benton County and Washington County sheriff's offices and the Rogers and Springdale police departments assigned officers to the task force. Officers received specialized training and have some immigration enforcement authority.

Deputies "do the best we can," Petray said. It's "not as simple" as walking someone out of the facility, he added.

Clark acknowledged Petray's explanation may impact the bonding process, but "it's just like any other business. It's hard to keep good employees."

Jana Brady of Bentonville took a friend to the Benton County Jail, who turned himself in at 12:50 p.m. on Tuesday on a misdemeanor charge.

Brady said she didn't expect the process to be quick but was entertaining her 1-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son while waiting on her friend.

At 2 p.m., she was given the bond paperwork to fill out and turned it back to the detention deputies, she said. The friend was officially released from the jail at 2:34 p.m.

Lt. Chris Reeser, who works in the Washington County Jail, said the time it takes to release an inmate from that facility varies depending on what's "going on."

Louann Eagle of Stilwell, Okla., bonded out a relative from the Washington County Jail on Saturday morning. The relative was arrested the night before on a misdemeanor charge.

Eagle said she arrived at the jail at approximately 10 a.m. A bondsman started the paperwork to release the relative at 10:15 a.m. and had it turned into detention deputies by 10:35 a.m.

The relative was released from the jail at 10:53 a.m.

The process of bonding out at Washington County Jail was quick, Eagle said. She added that she's never had to bond anyone out of the Benton County Jail.

Reeser said there are typically six booking deputies working on a shift with the release time averaging 15 to 20 minutes, Reeser said. Washington County detention deputies also verify property and paperwork before an inmate is released, he said.

Bill Browning Jr., an agent with First Arkansas Bail Bonds, said Washington County Jail has always been slow booking inmates into the jail but on average it takes 30 to 40 minutes "tops" to release them.

Browning agreed with Clark that the Benton County Jail can take "hours" to release an inmate.

"I honestly don't know what the holdup is," Browning said.

The Benton County Jail is overcrowded and needs a larger budget and staff, but Browning said "so much more plays into that" than staff shortage. He added it's the detention deputies' "attitude" which contributes to the timeliness of the bonding process.


State Law On Bonding Timeliness

Tommy Reed, executive director with the Arkansas Professional Bail Bondsman Licensing Board, said there are no regulations or Arkansas statutes regarding the timeliness of releasing someone from a detention facility.

The issue of timeliness is an issue to be taken up with jail administration, Reed said.

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