• A compassionate bail bond agent helps bring about positive change to her local jail’s release policy

    I love everything about this story that aired last week on KATV news in Arkansas. First, a disclaimer: this bail bond agent, Carmen Moore, does not work with or for me and we have never met. That said, based upon the news story, I am a fan. Carmen Moore’s actions make me proud to be(…)

  • Having your cake and eating it, too.

    The literal meaning of this shopworn expression is that you cannot both retain your cake and yet still eat it, too. If you eat the cake, it’s gone. You cannot have two incompatible things. The meaning of “having your cake and eating it, too” is similar to saying, “you can’t have it both ways.” Yet(…)

  • A frog is a wonderful bird — except for the flying part

    The Miami Dolphins ended another season, absent once again from the playoffs. They have been mired in mediocrity-at-best for a decade. But team owner Steven Ross, following a meaningless victory over the Patriots, has an interesting perspective. He told the assembled locker-room press that other than the actual winning football games part, the Dolphins are(…)

  • A New Year’s Poem.

    There are worse ways to spend 59-seconds than by watching this video of Tom Waits reading “The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski. Happy New Years to you and yours! The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski your life is your life don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission. be on the watch. there are ways(…)

  • A few moments with bail bondsman Marco Polo Vital on being in the appearance business

    Advocates of publicly funded pretrial release programs would have us believe that defendants who are released from jail pretrial simply need a friendly reminder of their court dates. In total disregard of the truth, they continue to tell gullible policymakers, politicians and judges that accused criminals can be trusted to appear in court as required.(…)

  • Gainesville bail bondsman tracks down his fugitive to a remote pot farm on the other side of the country.

    Score one for the good guys. There was an outstanding story published last week in the Gainesville Sun. Hats off to reporter Morgan Watkins for writing a great article about Gainesville bail agent Richard Roundtree and his successful efforts to return a fugitive to justice. Richard Roundtree is a second-generation bondsman, who owns the bail(…)

  • Take a wild guess who is going to pay for New Jersey “bail reform”?

    New Jersey governor “Chris” Christie makes a lot of noise about reining in government spending. But at least when it comes to “bail reform,” he is spectacularly hypocritical. When he wasn’t bullying his opponents, Christie trudged throughout New Jersey touting his reforms. His message was simple: Lock up the bad violent criminals, even if they(…)

A compassionate bail bond agent helps bring about positive change to her local jail’s release policy

I love everything about this story that aired last week on KATV news in Arkansas.

First, a disclaimer: this bail bond agent, Carmen Moore, does not work with or for me and we have never met. That said, based upon the news story, I am a fan. Carmen Moore’s actions make me proud to be a bondsman.

Bondsman Carmen Moore

Bondsman Carmen Moore

Moore works for Buddy York Bail Bonds in White County, Arkansas and she spoke out publicly against her local jail’s release policies and practices. This takes courage. Sometimes it’s a safer and easier course to stay silent about issues that don’t involve us directly. This is especially true if it potentially affects our pocket book as is certainly the case here. Many bail agents are understandably hesitant to criticize a jail publicly, knowing that release officers and deputies at the jail have the potential to make a bondsman’s professional life horrible.

Carmen Moore spoke out, regardless of the potentially adverse consequences to her in doing so.

The first thing I love about this story is that bail agent Carmen Moore stated that she “just happened to be in her office” at 2:30am. It is not uncommon for us bail agents to “just happen to be” in our offices at 2:30am. If an employee of a publicly-funded pretrial release program just happened to be in his government office at 2:30am it would be to steal the office’s flat screen TV.

So Carmen “just happened to be in her office” at 2:30am when her bail bond office’s door bell rings and it’s two guys, freshly released from the White County Detention Center across the street. Carmen did not stay silent. Instead, she spoke out, at first on her Facebook page, posting the following:

“I am so frustrated, it boggles my mind how a facility can be so cruel and inhumane. It’s 2:30 in the morning, I’m at my office working, when my door bell rings, it’s 2 guys who were just released from jail, WITHOUT even a phone call.. . This happens every day!!!! One of the guys is from West Memphis, who just spent 30 day for a failure to pay on a ticket from 2004. He has on a short sleeve shirt, sweat pants and NO freakin’ shoes, and it’s freakin’ cold outside. The inmates are not notified when they will be released, they are only told it can be at anytime after midnight. so they can’t make arrangements to be picked up. This happens every freaking day. About a month ago a lady was release right after midnight, lucky for her I was at my office she had been jail for 90 days, she was in shorts, a tank top and again No Shoes, she lived in Beebe, this was during one of our coldest days. I made her some coffee, gave her a pair of my shoes I had at the office, let her use the phone and stay in my office until she got a ride back to Beebe. The closest gas station that is OPEN at this time is about a mile away. What the heck is wrong with our world…. Losing faith in people!!”

Carmen Moore did more than publicly rant. She took the time and effort to listen and learn about the poor guy who appeared at her bail bond office’s door. She found out that he is a 52-year-old disabled Vet, who served our country during Desert Storm. She found out he was unable to reach his mother, who is suffering from cancer. Carmen Moore got him coffee, breakfast, shoes and arranged to get him a ride home to West Memphis. She cared.

It is important to note that this gentleman was at no time eligible for a bail bond. He served a 30-day sentence, evidently as a result of not paying a very small fine from 2004. When he was released from the jail at 2:30 am, it was without any advance warning or notice. He was released from the jail without shoes, without a jacket and without the opportunity to make a phone call. It was 29 degrees outside. Carmen Moore thought this was wrong and she did something about it.

Following her posts on social media, Carmen attracted the attention of TV news station KATV and they published the story, calling into question the White County Detention Center’s release policies.

Here’s my favorite quote from the interview:

 “I understand people have done some crimes and it is not supposed to be a hotel. They are also living, breathing human beings. Dignity you know?”

The good news is that following Carmen’s actions, the Sheriff’s Department properly addressed this issue. They no longer release inmates in the middle of the night without a phone call and a ride or other appropriate and safe arrangements being made. Obviously, this does not apply to defendants who are bonded out and have friends and family waiting with the bail agent.

Carmen reminds us that as bail agents we really are in an amazing position to help so many people. There are resources and services available to people in need. As bail agents we are often uniquely qualified to assist. Carmen reminds us that being a good bail agent and being a compassionate human being is never incompatible.

Thank you, Carmen Moore for your own compassion and efforts and for bringing some dignity to our profession.

Having your cake and eating it, too.

The literal meaning of this shopworn expression is that you cannot both retain your cake and yet still eat it, too. If you eat the cake, it’s gone. You cannot have two incompatible things. The meaning of “having your cake and eating it, too” is similar to saying, “you can’t have it both ways.”

Yet more and more often lately, that’s precisely what the state seeks in bail bond forfeiture matters. The purpose of a bail bond posted by a surety bail agent is to have the defendant appear as required in court. If the defendant becomes a fugitive and fails to appear, the bail agent must locate, apprehend and surrender the fugitive defendant back to the jurisdiction. Failing that, the bail agent must pay a substantial penalty to the state — the full penal amount of the bond forfeiture. So the bail agent either produces the body in court, or pays the penalty for failing to do so. It sounds simple, correct?

The state wants to eat your cake, and have it, too.

The state wants to eat your cake, and have it, too.

But what happens when the state doesn’t want the body? Common sense would tell you that if the state doesn’t want the fugitive, then the bail agent should not have to pay a penalty for failing to deliver. More and more often though, this is precisely what is happening. The state determines that it doesn’t want the fugitive yet still pursues the collection of the penalty from the bail agent. The state wants two incompatible things. Actually, they want one thing: revenue. But revenue to the state has never been the purpose of a bail bond. The purpose of the bail bond is to ensure the appearance in court of the accused.

Laws governing bail vary greatly from state to state. In some jurisdictions a bail agent is prohibited from lawfully apprehending his or her fugitive. For example, if I write a bail bond returnable to Miami-Dade County, Florida and the accused flees to Kentucky, it is illegal for me to enter Kentucky and apprehend him. The only lawful way for me to fulfill my obligation in this case would be to have Kentucky law enforcement take the fugitive into their custody on the Florida warrant and to extradite the fugitive back to the jurisdiction of Miami-Dade County. I would then be liable to the state for the costs incurred by them in transporting my bond principal back to Miami-Dade, Florida.

All-too-often, though, in cases such as this, the state refuses to seek nationwide extradition of the defendant — even though the bail agent is on the hook for the costs of transportation. The warrant will specify that it is for Florida only or otherwise geographically limited. The reality is that the state often in actuality does not want to prosecute or deal with the defendant, but they do want the proceeds of the bond forfeiture. They want to eat your cake.

To help remedy this situation in Florida, the Florida Bail Agents Association is seeking to pass HB 731. The complete text of the proposed legislation is here. The pertinent language in the proposed bill reads as follows:

(d) A determination that the state is unwilling to seek nationwide extradition of the fugitive defendant within 10 days after a request by the surety to do so, and contingent upon the surety agent’s consent to pay all transportation costs incurred by an official in returning the defendant to the jurisdiction of the court, up to the penal amount of the bond.

If you are a Florida bail agent you should join the Florida Bail Agents Association and support these efforts. Don’t sit on the sidelines while the state tries to change your bond into a revenue stream. Don’t allow the state to eat your cake for breakfast.

A frog is a wonderful bird — except for the flying part

The Miami Dolphins ended another season, absent once again from the playoffs. They have been mired in mediocrity-at-best for a decade. But team owner Steven Ross, following a meaningless victory over the Patriots, has an interesting perspective. He told the assembled locker-room press that other than the actual winning football games part, the Dolphins are doing great.

“From every aspect except on the playing field we’re probably the first class organization in the National Football League”

I never thought about it this way before. If we judge the Dolphins based upon their cheerleaders or trainers, or landscapers, or things other than actually winning football games, then heck, maybe they are champions after all. Someone should let their legions of perpetually heartbroken fans know about this.

This sort of outlook sheds new light on the possibility that publicly funded pretrial release programs really are effective and worthwhile. They do many things well; except for the part about having defendants who are released pretrial actually show up for court.

For instance, these programs employ bunches of additional government workers and we all know what a great thing that is. Some of these pretrial release programs collect hundreds of gallons of urine from compliant (and presumed innocent) accused criminals. Some install electronic bracelets which helps the bracelet manufacturers and the paid electronic “monitors” who can track compliant defendants. (Non-compliant clients simply cut the bracelet off or fail to appear for the first appointment to have it put on.) These programs send out court notices to those accused criminals who are thoughtful enough to provide them with accurate addresses. They answer the phones during office hours except during lunch breaks, work breaks or paid government holidays. They have a lot of file cabinets, computers, coffee breaks, and government employee benefits.

For every aspect except actually being held accountable for the appearance of the defendant, these taxpayer funded pretrial release programs are first class organizations.

In my state of Florida, the statutes read that the terms “bail” and “bond” include any and all forms of pretrial release. So when an accused criminal is released pretrial — as most are and should be — they are released on bail. The only relevant questions are: who pays for that bail and is it truly a secured release or a figment of everyone’s imagination? Will someone actually be held accountable for the defendant’s appearance at trial?

The woman who supervises the Manatee County, Florida’s taxpayer funded “conditional release program” said, “The County does not ever post bond for anyone. That is the purpose of our program.”

For every aspect except the part about knowing what she actually does for a living, she is a winner! She goes on to say, “How are we to be held accountable for them attending court? Short of watching clients 24 hours per day, that is not possible. The bondsman don’t do that either.”

For every aspect except truthfulness, that’s a great statement!  Of course bondsman actually are held accountable. By tying up friends and family of the accused and by risking their own money, bail bond agents are indeed accountable for their defendants’ appearance in court. When their defendants fail to appear, the bail agents — on their own dime — locate, apprehend and surrender them back to the jurisdiction of the court. Failing that, they pay a substantial penalty to the government. When defendants are released pretrial on a taxpayer funded bail and subsequently fail to appear, we get another open felony warrant entered into the system.

And probably a government requisition form for some new office plants and urine cups.

A New Year’s Poem.

There are worse ways to spend 59-seconds than by watching this video of Tom Waits reading “The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski. Happy New Years to you and yours!

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Tom Waits is an American singer-song songwriter and actor.  Charles Bukowski was an American author of poems, novels, short stories, and letters.

A few moments with bail bondsman Marco Polo Vital on being in the appearance business

Advocates of publicly funded pretrial release programs would have us believe that defendants who are released from jail pretrial simply need a friendly reminder of their court dates. In total disregard of the truth, they continue to tell gullible policymakers, politicians and judges that accused criminals can be trusted to appear in court as required. They argue that secured, private bail in which a bail agent is held accountable for the defendant’s appearance can be replaced with an expensive, ineffective government program that sends out court date notices.

Private bail agents, such as Marco Polo Vital, know that this is bunk. Vital has been a bondsman for 9-years in Broward County, Florida. He writes bail in Miami-Dade as well as Fort Lauderdale.

“Some you have to call; some are knuckleheads.”

Gainesville bail bondsman tracks down his fugitive to a remote pot farm on the other side of the country.

Score one for the good guys. There was an outstanding story published last week in the Gainesville Sun. Hats off to reporter Morgan Watkins for writing a great article about Gainesville bail agent Richard Roundtree and his successful efforts to return a fugitive to justice.

Richard Roundtree is a second-generation bondsman, who owns the bail agency that his father founded in 1956. Roundtree was born in Gainesville, Florida and has been writing bail there since 1978.

Bondsman Richard Roundtree

Bail Bond Agent Richard Roundtree

The Gainesville Sun article highlights some very important concepts. Secured private bail is not about releasing defendants from jail but rather it is an obligation to produce the defendant in court. Bail agent Richard Roundtree posted a $150,000.00 bail bond to secure the appearance of Darren Enoch Duck to face charges of trafficking in Ecstacy.

When Duck absconded, bondsman Roundtree had to locate, apprehend and surrender him back to the custody of the Alachua County Sheriff within 60-days of his failure to appear in court. Since Roundtree was unable to accomplish that in order to fulfill his obligation on the bond, Roundtree paid a substantial penalty — the entire $150,000 face amount of the forfeited bail bond. As the article points out, Roundtree had to use his retirement savings to help pay for the forfeited bond.

At this point, it is a safe bet that Roundtree was more motivated than any person on the planet to bring back Darren Enoch Duck to face justice. Alachua County, Florida has many outstanding deputies and police officers but it is unlikely that any lost sleep over Duck’s whereabouts. “I lost a lot of sleep over this one,” said Roundtree.

Private secured bail is so effective for precisely the reasons highlighted in this case. Roundtree had a very strong vested financial interest in bringing his fugitive back. He spent untold hours and over $36,000 of his own hard-earned money on this case. He eventually enlisted the services of fellow Florida bail agent Rolando Betancourt to help track down this fugitive. Betancourt, who has traveled all across the world to return bail skips, spent 46 days on the road tracking Duck. Betancourt ultimately succeeded in locating Duck and causing his arrest in California.

The Alachua County Sheriff sent deputies to California to retrieve Duck and return him in their custody to Gainesville, Florida for prosecution. Guess who reimbursed the Sheriff for the cost of this trip?  Bail agent Roundtree paid $2,277 to reimburse the Sheriff for their costs incurred in bringing Duck back. His obligation was to have the defendant appear in court in Gainesville, Florida. Roundtree did his job.

Not a dead duck but a captured Duck

Not a dead duck but a captured Duck

Articles like this one are uncommon, but the practices outlined take place every day. Bail agents guarantee the appearance in court of their defendants.  Most of the time, bail agents are able to have their clients in court as required. When a client fails to appear, the bail agent locates, apprehends and surrenders them back to the jail. If they are unable to accomplish this in time — as was the case with bail agent Roundtree — they pay the state a substantial penalty. Since Florida allows bail agents to recover some of their forfeited bail money for up to two years, bail agents continue to look for and capture fugitives.

Take a wild guess who is going to pay for New Jersey “bail reform”?

New Jersey governor “Chris” Christie makes a lot of noise about reining in government spending. But at least when it comes to “bail reform,” he is spectacularly hypocritical.

When he wasn’t bullying his opponents, Christie trudged throughout New Jersey touting his reforms. His message was simple: Lock up the bad violent criminals, even if they haven’t been convicted of anything yet. Oh, and while you are at it, just let all of the other criminals whom we think are non-violent out without having to post bail. This way, poor harmless defendants won’t have to languish in jail indefinitely. Every bondsman knows the fallacy of this poppycock. What Christie neglected to mention to voters is that he’d rather have accused criminals languish in his pal’s private halfway houses or “rehab” programs.

The “lock-up-the-scary-guys” rhetoric must have been convincing because New Jersey voters found it palatable enough to approve a Constitutional amendment, sanctioning Christie’s scheme.

New Jersey Governor Christie, hypocrite extrordinaire

New Jersey Governor Christie, hypocrite extrordinaire

This “bail reform” bill-of-goods is slated to start in 2016 and be fully implemented in 2017. Morris County now projects that will cost $5 million to pay for this unfunded mandate. New Jersey has twenty other counties

“From a policy standpoint, we think bail reform is going to work.  The cash bail system is antiquated and unfair,” said John Donnadio, executive director of the Association of Counties. But, he said, the dilemma is how counties will pay for it.

I know how they will pay for it. The taxpayers of New Jersey will get hosed. They will foot the entire bill for a plan that is destined to fail. Cops in New Jersey who arrest suspects will be encouraged to let many of them go, after simply issuing a summons to appear. Picture how this actually works. First, a police officer has probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred. Then, he or she arrests the suspect and reads them their rights. A “Live Scan Fingerprinting” machine instantly checks for holds and warrants. Finding none, the police officer uncuffs the probable criminal and says go forth and please don’t forget to appear in court for trial. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Those accused criminals who do manage to make it to jail will go through a “risk assessment process” rather than having to post private secured bail.  The pretrial release program will release accused criminals who score out as a “low” or “moderate” risk. Don’t worry about mistakenly letting out poor risks to appear; the government pretrial release program will employ a special algorithm tool that analyzes the defendant’s background check. Seriously.  It’s astounding that anyone with a brain buys into this. But the taxpayers of New Jersey are about to – to the tune of millions and millions of dollars.

And what of these poor defendants who no longer have to stay in jail because they supposedly cannot afford to pay a private bail agent to post bond? Those who score out as “low” or “moderate” on the magic algorithm tool will be released for “free” after meeting with newly hired government Pretrial Services employees. After they score out to be released for “free” so they don’t have to languish in jail on account of being poor, they will be charged for frequent urine tests and electronic monitoring and weekly check-ins with the government employees.

Many of these accused criminals will decide that this is more trouble and expense than it’s worth and determine that they cannot afford the costs of their “free” release. They will fail to appear in court. Warrants will be issued but no one will look for them, especially not the newly minted Pretrial Release program employees. That’s not their job, they will say. Someone from the government might tinker with the magic algorithm tool at some point, but no one will be held accountable for the non-appearance of defendants released pretrial.

It’s a safe bet that New Jersey Governor and now presidential candidate “Chris” Christie doesn’t want voters to know the real story: That he wants to replace secured bail bonds — a private enterprise that works — with a bloated, ineffective government program that is destined to fail spectacularly.

A moment with bail bond agent Jackie Parker — he’s in the appearance business

Advocates of publicly funded pretrial release programs would have us believe that defendants who are released from jail pretrial simply need a friendly reminder of their court dates. In total disregard of the truth, they continue to tell gullible policymakers, politicians and judges that accused criminals can be trusted to appear in court as required. They argue that secured, private bail in which a bail agent is held accountable for the defendants’s appearance can be replaced with a government program that sends out court date notices.

Private bail agents, such as Jackie Parker, know that this is bunk. Parker has been a bondsman for 20-years in Greenville, North Carolina.

 

Newspeak: We no longer jail criminals, we “warehouse” people.

Obviously we may have some bad blood on display in this video, but the narrative is noteworthy. This public defender is evidently upset that the judge had the nerve to set a whopping $1,000 bail bond to secure the release and guarantee the appearance of his homeless client. The public defender disrespectfully mouths off to the judge that by requiring a bail bond he is causing this poor defendant to be warehoused.

What utter poppycock.

This man is not in jail because he is poor. He is not in jail because he is homeless. He is in jail because there is probable cause to believe that he broke the law. This public defender would have the judge believe that because he is poor, he will have to be “warehoused.” The judge knows better.

Let’s look at the facts. Assume that this poor defendant does not have access to $1,000. So, in order to secure his release from jail he needs to retain the services of a bail bond agent. In Broward County, Florida a licensed bail agent charges $150 to post a $1,000 bond. There are many, many hungry bail bond agents in Broward County, each eager to make a living and serve the public and the courts. Many of these bail agents would happily post this $1,000 bail bond in exchange for $150 and at least one stable, credit worthy, resident of Broward County who is willing to come forward and vouch for this guy and guarantee that he will appear in court. Many bail agents in Broward County, Florida will even allow family members or friends of the defendant to make payments towards the $150 if the bond is good.

What makes the bail bond good? One thing only: the defendant’s appearance in court at the proceeding for which the bond was written. How can a bail agent be confident that a defendant will appear? Usually by requiring that friends and family members of the defendant come forward and vouch for him. Typically, on a thousand dollar bond the bail agent would require only that family members sign to guarantee that they can have their relative appear in court. They don’t pay anything other than the $150, which, again, they can often make in installments. They simply agree to reimburse the bail agent the amount of the bail bond he posted — in this case, $1,000 — if the defendant flees and cannot be located by the bail agent.

So what happens when a defendant is charged with a crime and no one — not a single person in the world — is willing to vouch for him? What happens when his family members no longer trust him and he doesn’t have a single stable friend, employer, co-corker or even a trustworthy acquaintance? Probably, in such tragic cases there is nothing that can reasonably assure his appearance in court other than keeping him in jail. Homelessness, alcoholism and drug addiction are all big problems, often intertwined. But make no mistake, this poor man is not in jail because he is homeless. He is jail because he is charged with committing a crime and no one in his life thinks that he is a good bet to appear in court to face justice on the criminal charges filed against him.

There are alternatives. We could just give homeless people a pass — simply exempt them from being charged with a crime so that they don’t become “warehoused.” Or we could cite them instead of arresting them for a crime — which some cities are now doing more and more. Of course, when he fails to appear for his court case, a warrant is issued for  his arrest.

Advocates of publicly funded pretrial release programs would have us believe that poor, innocent people are languishing in jail — warehoused — simply due to their inability to post bail. Don’t you believe it. A bail bond agent is standing by ready to serve. He or she needs only a family member, friend, co-worker, employer, or trustworthy acquaintance who is willing to assist. That’s how bail works, and why bail works. The friends and family of the defendant and the bail agent have a vested financial interest in the appearance of the accused.

Was Chicago cop actually released on a $1.5 million bond?

It’s been widely reported that the Chicago police officer who is facing a first-degree murder charge for shooting a teen 16 times posted bail and was released on a $1.5 million bond. I am not so sure that this is an accurate thing to say.

What happens if Van Dyke flees?

What happens if Van Dyke flees?

By way of background, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with the October 20, 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald. The dashcam video that shows the teen being shot is damning evidence. Even Van Dyke’s own defense attorney concedes: “When you see the video alone, it does not seem like a justifiable shooting.” But of course, in America everyone is presumed to be innocent.

At Van Dyke’s bond hearing, which was held earlier this week, Judge Donald Panarese Jr.watched the dashcam video and listened to testimony that Van Dyke is no threat to the public safety and should therefore be given a bond. According to news reports, the Judge set bail in the amount of $1.5 million dollars. A few hours after the bail hearing, friends and family of the accused cop posted the bond and Van Dyke was released from the Cook County jail.

I know what it means when I post a $1.5 million dollar bond to guarantee a defendant’s appearance. I am much less sure what it means when Van Dyke posted his $1.5 million dollar bond. Illinois is one of a very small number of states that do not allow commercial bail bonds. What thousands of licensed and well-regulated bondsman across the United States, including myself, do for a living is not allowed in Chicago. So how do they manage bail in Chicago? As best I can tell, and as was reported, friends, family members and fellow police officers brought $150,000 (10% of the bail amount set by the judge) in cash to the jail. Instead of private bondsmen, the Cook County Sherriff’s Department of Corrections provides their own bonding facility controlled by the Clerk of Cook County to accommodate family members of incarcerated detainees to post bond on site from 9:00AM to 8:30PM.

You can go there in person during their business hours (as Van Dyke’s friends and fellow officers presumably did to post his bail) but evidently you cannot get them to answer their telephone. For the past week I have been calling the Cook County Bonding Facility at (773) 674- 2276. When you dutifully follow the prompts to obtain bonding information they play a recording for 15 or 20 minutes and then hang up on you. It happens every time. (I am embarrassed to tell you how many times I tried this.) So I cannot say with complete certainty how bail works in Chicago because I cannot even get them to answer the phone. But I have a pretty good guess how they do it.

What, exactly, does Van Dyke’s $1.5 million dollar bond mean? What happens if Jason Van Dyke fails to appear for trial (the primary purpose of his bail) and becomes a fugitive? My theory is that in the event of this occurring, the judge will issue a warrant for Van Dyke’s arrest and also forfeit his bond.

When a private bail bondman writes a bail bond for $1.5 million — in Florida, for example — he or she has 60 days in which to locate, apprehend and surrender the fugitive back to jail. (In other states the time-frame may be different but the obligation remains the same.) If they fail in that obligation, they pay the entire forfeited bail amount of $1.5 million to the State. The entire amount (here in Florida at least) being provided as security for the bail is guaranteed by a solvent and well-regulated insurance company. The State is absolutely assured that they will get either the fugitive or the entire cash amount of the forfeited bail bond as a penalty for not getting the fugitive. Period. The bondsman has a strong and very real economic incentive to make sure that the defendant appears.

What of Chicago? In all likelihood, if Van Dyke absconds and his bond is forfeited, his family and fellow officers will likely get a bill for $1.5 million from the Cook County Clerk. Do you think they will pay it? My guess is that Cook County collects forfeited bonds about as effectively as they answer the telephone at their Bonding Facility. When government agencies attempt to run publicly-funded bail programs, historically they usually do virtually nothing to collect on forfeited bail money.

Who will chase Van Dyke if he flees? Is it realistic for anyone to think that his friends, family and fellow police officers will go after him if he becomes a fugitive? These are, after all, probably the same folks that would be suspected of helping him to abscond in the first place. And does anyone really believe that these fellow police officers would be willing and/or able to pay the $1.5 million forfeited bond amount?

For decades the City of Philadelphia ran a similar public bail racket. “Bail judgments just aren’t paid off unless something miraculous happens,” said David D. Wasson, chief deputy court administrator. Philadelphia wrote off over a billion dollars as noncollectable. I would ask Cook County how much they wrote off in forfeited bail if someone would ever answered their telephone.

The press is making a serious mistake when they without thinking repeat that Van Dyke posted a $1.5 million bond. His bond is a mockery of the bail system. What actually occurred is that friends and family of the accused murderer paid $150,000.00 to get Jason Van Dyke out of the Cook County jail. That’s a far cry from a real bondsman actually posting $1.5 million in real money to secure and guarantee his appearance.