Monday, July 26, 2010

Bail Bond Companies Claim Conflict with Pretrial Release

Cradling his office phone between his head and left shoulder, Raul "Katt" Brewster grabs his cell mid-ring and answers, "Bail bonds."

His fluorescent orange office walls hit like smelling salt. They keep him alert, Brewster says.

"Twenty thousand?" asks Brewster, the manager of the Wilmington office of Powell Bail Bonding. "Can you come up with a G? ... Can you come up with a thousand?"

In the few minutes between phone calls, Brewster talks about his trade and its "adversary:" pretrial release.

Sitting eight miles away in an office at the New Hanover County courthouse, Ray Murphy disagrees.

The pretrial release contractor says, "The public is going to win when pretrial and bonding cooperate."

Bail bonding companies and pretrial release programs get people out of jail as they wait for their court date. Both say they reduce prison populations.

But bail bonding companies say pretrial costs taxpayers money that should be spent elsewhere, while pretrial advocates say the program rehabilitates offenders and monitors them as they pay fines and child support.

For some bail companies, the feud has become political. Brewster said bail bond companies lobby state legislatures to limit pretrial release programs and represent their interests on other issues.

Locally, the Lower Cape Fear Bail Bonding Association represents bail agents, while the North Carolina Bail Agents Association is its statewide counterpart. Also, the N.C. Bail Agents Association Political Action Committee raises money and donates it to General Assembly campaigns and committees.

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