FTA’s

Friendly text reminder to begin serving jail sentence may not be sufficient

I just got a text message to remind me of my upcoming doctor’s appointment. I already had the appointment scheduled in my calendar but the text was unobtrusive so it didn’t bother me. Besides, I’m sure that these texts help some people remember to keep their appointments.

“Friendly reminders” might not be enough

I have a pretty good idea of what will likely happen at my doctor’s office. They will weigh me and take my vitals. My doctor will examine me and ask questions about my health and well being. There’s a good chance he’ll encourage me to keep on exercising and eating healthy foods. His staff will collect my co-pay and schedule my next appointment.  Based upon my past experiences the visit won’t take long and I’ll leave my doctor’s office in a good mood.

Here is what I know with a great degree of certainty will not happen during my upcoming doctor’s appointment. They will not handcuff me and cart me off to jail and refuse to let me go home.

Text message reminders are a good thing. Many licensed bail agents use this tool already and make it a routine practice to text court date reminders to both their bail bond principals and to their family members who sign on the bond.

The bail reform charlatans, however, are peddling poppycock to policy makers that text reminders are sufficient to assure court appearances. This bogus claim intentionally ignores critical facts. Some defendants don’t want to go to court. Some defendants are guilty as sin and they know it. Some defendants —though presumed to be innocent — are most certainly anything but. Some defendants are inevitably and deservedly headed to jail or prison. A friendly text reminder won’t do the trick to assure their appearance for sentencing.

Across the country there are hundreds of thousands of open bench warrants for the arrest of felons who have absconded. The dunderheads at outfits like “Pretrial Justice Institute” would have us believe that we can round up these hordes of dangerous criminals by sending text message reminders. Bail Agents know better.

You know what types of text messages are much more effective than “friendly” text reminders? A message that your family and loved ones are financially accountable for your appearance in court. A message that a licensed bail agent faces the imposition of a substantial financial penalty if you fail to appear and that he or she will go to great lengths to avoid that.  So-called “money bail” works because money incentivizes people. All other forms of pretrial release tend to be figments of everyone’s imagination. We value money. So by pledging money we are placing something we value as security to assure the appearance in court of accused criminals.

Which sort of text message do you think is more effective at guaranteeing the court appearance of an accused criminal?

  1. Hi there! Just a friendly reminder of your court date tomorrow in courtroom 4E at 9am!

  2. Hi there! You must be in court tomorrow at 9am before the Honorable Judge Jack Johnson to face criminal charges that you committed robbery and possession of cocaine. If you fail to appear your grandmother is at risk of losing her family home. In addition, the bail agent will make it his or her life’s mission to locate, apprehend and return you to jail. He or she will not fail in that obligation. That will not prevent, however, each of your relatives who signed to guarantee your bond from suffering financially. So do the right thing. Your family and loved ones and your bail agent assisted you in securing your bond so you could be released pretrial. Return the favor by rewarding their trust and appearing in court to face the consequences of your actions. You must do this even if you don’t “feel like it” or want to.

If you make a living peddling junk science for the “University of Pretrial” you might go with option “1.” The rest of us, of course, would select “2.”  (Bonus question: What “university” has no professors, no campus, no text books, and has never been responsible for the appearance in court of an accused criminal?)

Bail works because people —including the accused criminal —are held accountable for their actions.

Text message reminders are a wonderful tool in the arsenal. But let’s not fool ourselves for a second that a “friendly text message” can replace a financially accountable licensed bail agent.

 

A moment with bail agent John Milano

A willingness to work hard and serve the public leads to success.

One quality that all thriving bail agents seem to share is a superlative work ethic. Hall-of-Fame bail agent Russell Faibisch is fond of winking at newly licensed bail bond agents and letting them in on the real secret to his success:

“One night I went to the jail. Seven years later I went home.”

Florida bail agent John Milano seems to be cut from the same bolt of cloth. Milano is always working. We spent time recently with Milano at one of his Florida bail offices. Between taking phone calls and meeting with indemnitors, we discussed the myth of poor people languishing in jail and how come you never see pretrial release employees at the jail after 5pm.  After he finished laughing, he also had a few things to say in response to the fabricated claim that bondsman don’t actually locate, apprehend and surrender their bail skips.

“They broke the law and many times they don’t want to face the music.”

Milano works during all hours of the day and night to help people to secure the release of their accused friends and family members. He routinely works with multiple family members in order to post small as well as more lucrative larger bonds.

With the posting of each bail bond he writes, Milano guarantees the State of Florida that his defendants will appear in court. He notifies each client of his or her court date. When a defendant fails to appear in court and absconds, Milano and his staff of licensed bail agents locate, apprehend and surrender the fugitive back to the county jail. On the rare occasions when they fail to accomplish this in a timely manner they pay the state a substantial penalty.

Milano — like all other private bail agents — does not charge the taxpayers anything to perform this invaluable role in our criminal justice system.

A moment with bail agents Kenneth Holmes and Phil Woods

A few (two) good men equals a few hundred fewer fugitives.

The only way that the advocates of publicly funded “free” pretrial release programs can sell their poppycock to rational policymakers is by using a few whopping bold-faced lies, which they repeat over and over to anyone who will listen. Here are a few of their key lies:

  • Bail agents don’t pay when their bond principals remain fugitives;
  • Bail agents don’t have to arrest fugitives (Because after all there are police and active warrants!);
  • There is no difference in court appearance rates between defendants released pretrial on secured bail and those who are released on unsecured bail where no one is financially responsible for the defendant’s appearance.

Each of these statements are false and easily disproved but it’s hard to make their “bail reform” proposals palatable without the use of such deceits. (If they don’t lie, the pretrial release zealots are left with: “Hey, let’s replace a private business that performs effectively with a government agency that doesn’t!”)

I recently had the opportunity to spend time with Tennessee bail agents Kenneth Holmes and Phil Woods. These two young men served honorably together in the United States Marine Corps. After a tour of duty in Afghanistan, they returned home and settled in Knoxville, Tennessee. There they met a bail agent, who had also served in the US Marine Corps. The bail agent gave Kenneth and Phil an opportunity consisting of a few hundred defendant files.

In six months’ time, newly Tennessee licensed bail agents Kenneth Holmes and Phil Woods accomplished the surrender of approximately two hundred fugitives who had missed their court dates. I am proud to work in a profession with fine young men like these. These two United States Marines returned from duty in Afghanistan and now serve the courts of Tennessee by returning fugitives to justice.

The best way to promote any Bail Reform scheme that proposes to eliminate secured accountable bail: Lie and disregard the inconvenient truths.

No rational taxpayer will like the inevitable consequences of releasing all accused criminals on unsecured bail and promises to appear.

New Orleans City Councilman Susan G. Guidry introduced a Municipal Ordinance that would require the jail to release all accused criminals immediately following their booking. For those who must appear before a judge, the proposed ordinance directs the judge to release the accused on his or her own recognizance.

During a September 19, 2016 meeting of the New Orleans City Council Criminal Justice Committee, Municipal Court Judge Paul N. Sens testified and shared some of his experiences as a sitting judge. You can view the entire committee hearing here.

Councilwoman Guidry pretends to be “astounded” that bail bond agents are vehemently opposed to her ordinance. In her mind, large numbers of poor people are forced to languish in jail solely due to their inability to post a bond. Even though everyone accused of a misdemeanor in New Orleans currently sees a judge within 24-hours, Guidry wants accused criminals released immediately on unsecured bonds. Her proposed ordinance includes:

  • “The Court may not place a secured financial condition on a warrant of arrest.”
  • “No defendant may be detained because of failure to abide by a non-financial release condition due to inability to pay.”

Amazingly, this would include defendants with a history of failures to appear.

In an attempt to make her proposals palatable to voters, Councilwoman Guidry falsely claims that this will apply to non-violent misdemeanors only and have no negative impact on public safety or quality of life.  The hearing included this remarkable exchange between Councilwoman Guidry and the Honorable Judge Paul See.

JUDGE SEE: “We do have a large number of failing to appears. . . We have probably in the neighborhood of 40,000. I think the last time I checked we had over 40,000 warrants for people’s arrest for failing to appear in court.”

Councilwoman Guidry doesn’t like this testimony because it conflicts with her unfounded belief that the method of release has no impact on failures to appear in court. She counters with this stumbling attempt to state that secured bail isn’t working:

COUNCILWOMAN GUIDRY: “So obviously the bail doesn’t keep that from happening. The bond does not keep that from happening. You got 40,000 and you know if somebody is gonna not show I would assume they’re not gonna show for whatever they are out once they are out they are not gonna come back whether its that they couldn’t get out until the first hearing so you gave them first hearing and then you gave them a trial date. And they’re not gonna come back for that trial date if that’s who they are or if that’s their circumstance.”

JUDGE SEE: “And really the only difference to that is whether or not a bond company is on the line that they have to pay the court for their failure to appear and they go back and they get that person and bring him to court. That’s the difference.”

COUNCILWOMAN GUIDRY: “And on a municipal charge how often does that happen?”

JUDGE SEE: “Oh, quite a bit actually. When I was in court this morning we had three of them.”

This is honest testimony based upon the honorable judge’s actual courtroom experience. It is not what Councilwoman Guidry wants to hear. It doesn’t fit her false narrative. She goes on to claim that she has “asked for the data” (regarding bondsman writing small bonds and returning their fugitives to municipal court) and claims “We have not been able to get it.”  She follows this with a whopper of a lie:

COUNCILWOMAN GUIDRY: “We’ve just been told by people who practice in the court that as a rule that bondsman won’t write small bonds.”

This is poppycock. Her false statement is immediately challenged by one of her colleagues on the City Council. Does anyone believe for even a second that a City Councilwoman who chairs the Criminal Justice Committee cannot easily obtain the number of secured and unsecured bonds posted in the City of New Orleans Municipal Court? Likewise, the number, and dollar amounts of forfeited secured bonds is a matter of public record maintained by the Clerk of the Court.

Why is it so important for Councilwoman Guidry to pretend that New Orleans bail agents won’t write small bonds? Because no rational person would suggest that it’s better to let all accused criminals out on unsecured promises to appear when the alternative is secured accountable bail that is posted to assure court appearance at no cost to the taxpayers.