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.