Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bail Agents Fight Back Against Pre-Trial Release

The bail-bond industry sent a glossy four-page flier to 50,000 mailboxes this month, warning Orange County taxpayers that elected officials are allowing drunken drivers, drug dealers and violent criminals out of jail by using a costly but flawed pretrial-release program.

That flier, urging residents to tell commissioners to end the "wasteful" program, lists people arrested and released for crimes ranging from drug possession and child neglect to concealing a firearm and lewd behavior. But various judicial and county officials say themaileris misleading on a number of fronts and leaves out a crucial fact: All the arrested people cited in the mailer could bail out of jail and be on the street — even if the release program was not in place.

What the mailer really shows, county officials say, is a struggling bail-bond industry that fears the spread of successful pretrial-release programs nationwide could cost them serious business.

"Our interest is public safety," said Michael Tidwell, Orange's jail chief. "The interest of the bail-bond industry is their livelihood; it's their profit margin."

The mailer prompted County Mayor Rich Crotty to hastily include a public briefing about it for commissioners on today's regular meeting agenda.

The fight centers around certain minimal-risk jail inmates who are offered a low-cost release from jail while awaiting a court hearing.

Read more here.

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