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ACLU - $elling Off Our Freedom, 2017

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MAY 2017

$ELLING
OFF
OUR
FREEDOM
How insurance corporations have
taken over our bail system

CONTENTS
Color Of Change and ACLU’s Campaign for
Smart Justice would like to acknowledge:
Katie Unger, who spearheaded the research and analysis for this report.
Thanks to the many advocates and practitioners whose insights and work were invaluable to this report,
particularly to Alec Karakatsanis, Jonah Engle and Larry Schwartztol for providing thoughtful feedback.
Thanks to the National Institute on Money in State Politics (Helena, MT) and Big Lake Data. 
Special thanks to the ACLU’s Udi Ofer, John Cutler, Andrea Woods, and Megan French-Marcelin; ACLU
of California’s Margaret Dooley-Sammuli; and Color Of Change’s Rashad Robinson, Scott Roberts, Ryan
Senser, Enchanta Jackson, and Michele St. Julien, who moved this report from vision to finished product;
and Adina Ellis and the ACLU Communications Team, who provided critical editing and support.

01

Executive Summary

04

Introduction	

09

At a Glance: A View of the Bail Industry	

11

What is a Surety?

12

How Does a For-Profit Bail Bond Work?	

16

How For-Profit Money Bail Fuels Mass Incarceration	

20

The Corporations Profiting from Money Bail	

23

The Big Corporations Behind Bail

24

Bail Insurance Corporations Reap Rewards on Low Risk	

26

How Bail Corporations Control People’s Freedom	

28

How Bail Corporations Decide Who Is and Isn’t Set Free	

29

How Bail Corporations Trap People in Debt

32

How Bail Corporations Rig Contracts and Shift Risk to Families	

33

How Bail Corporations Enforce Control	

34

How the Bail Industry Evades Oversight and Regulation	

38

Bail Insurance Corporations Enlist Lawmakers to Keep Control	

42

State by State: The For-Profit Bail Industry Fights Reform	

43

The Bail Industry at the Federal Level	

44

Conclusions and Recommendations

48

Definitions

50

Endnotes

EXECUTIVE
SUMMARY
This report tells the rarely heard and even
less understood story of how the bail
industry has corrupted our constitutional
freedoms for profit: the freedom from
exploitation in bail, the guarantee of being
recognized as innocent until proven guilty,
and the guarantee of the equal application
of the law to all people.
Corporate opportunists have hijacked
public authority and created an
unnecessary and largely unaccountable
$2 billion bail industry that profits from
trapping people both inside and out of jail,
often for long after their charges with the
courts have been resolved. It may seem
paradoxical to learn that bail—a process
meant to guarantee freedom and fairness
in the criminal justice system for people
who have not been convicted of a crime—
is being used by corporations in this way.
Yet it happens daily nationwide, typically
with little resistance from the politicians,
judges, and prosecutors sworn to protect
public rights.

01

The for-profit bail industry has reinforced
and profited from the racially biased
nature of our criminal justice system,
which routinely targets low-income people,
Black people, and other people of color for
reasons that have nothing to do with their
guilt or innocence.
This report exposes how the industry
works, the corporations and enablers in
government that are behind it, who they
impact and the extent of their damage,
the inherent problems with allowing a
for-profit industry to hold the key to the
jailhouse gates, and why this practice of
for-profit money bail must end.

Executive Summary

The Basics of Money Bail

Each year, millions of
people are forced to
pay money bail after
they are arrested.
Just over two decades ago, most people
arrested for felonies were released
without having to pay bail. But today,
millions of people must pay bail in order
to avoid detention in jail while their case is
underway, though they are still innocent
in the eyes of the law. If they cannot pay
the amount set for their bail, they remain
in jail for their inability to pay. Many plead
guilty regardless of the case against them
and suffer the long-running consequences
of convictions in order to be released.
To come up with the money for release,

far too many people and their families
are lured into exploitative arrangements
with bail bond corporations that typically
charge a nonrefundable fee of 10 percent
of the full bail amount. Many are trapped
in a cycle of debt and fees related to their
payments, and even people whose charges
are dropped or who are determined
to be innocent do not get their money
back. Their debt and financial losses,
and the resulting problems in their lives,
can persist long after their court case is
resolved. Unsurprisingly, there is racial
bias in determining who needs to pay and
who does not, and in how high bail is set.
Corporate insurance companies are largely
responsible for the way the bail system
works today, and they are also the largest
beneficiaries of it.

Who Profits From the Corporate Takeover of Our Bail System?
In most of America, the insurance
corporations and local bond agents that
make up the private for-profit bail industry
operate in the shadows—little understood
and with inadequate oversight. Yet, in
another sense, they operate very much
out in the open—portrayed to the public
at large by news and entertainment media
as a nearly automatic and inherently
necessary part of the system. In reality,
for-profit bail is actually a global anomaly
used only in the Philippines and the
United States.
This report shows how corporate insurers
operate with little risk, even leading
some of them to boast of going years
without paying any losses. Fewer than
10 main insurers underwrite a significant
majority of the approximately $14 billion
in bail bonds issued in the United States
each year. Bail insurance corporations
are increasingly held as under-the-radar
subsidiaries of large global companies.
Traded in London, Tokyo, and Toronto, or

registered in tax havens like the Cayman
Islands and Bermuda, these corporations
and their executives operate far from the
influence of the people and communities
over whom they hold so much power.
Laws the industry often helps write and
the politicians it has helped fund work
to sustain the ability of bail corporations
to extract money from arrested people
and their families. And a combination of
insufficient and ineffective government
oversight enables the many abuses they
perpetrate. In particular, the big insurance
corporations behind bail have been very
effective at crafting and institutionalizing
laws, regulations, and practices that
protect their profits; they have cultivated
a more than 20-year relationship with the
American Legislative Exchange Council
(ALEC), the pro-privatization lobby
group, to successfully write and pass their
own custom laws in state legislatures
nationwide, while very effectively derailing
alternatives and reforms.

02

Executive Summary

How Bail Corporations Control People’s Freedom

The result of bail
corporations’ control
is that millions of
people are no longer
free: people stuck
in jail and families
stuck in debt to
create profit for these
corporations.
Leaving People in Jail. With only its
bottom line to answer to, the bail industry
determines who it will accept as customers
and who it will leave detained while their
cases slowly make their way through a
complicated and extremely flawed criminal
justice system.
Trapping Families in Debt and Loss.
People who post bail directly with courts
get their money returned at the end of a
case, regardless of its outcome. But bail
corporations keep families’ payments, even
when charges are dropped or people are
found innocent. They also collect money
from installment plans and fees long after
they have any financial risk. In Maryland,
the bail industry kept at least $75 million
over five years just in premiums from
people whose cases were resolved without
a conviction in District Court alone.
Rigging Contracts to Forfeit People’s
Rights. Bail insurers’ contracts with people
seeking bail—and their families or friends
who co-sign—contain exploitative terms.
Common provisions require people and
their families to sign away their privacy,

03

including by submitting to invasive
surveillance, and to pay sweeping and
unpredictable costs.
With little accountability, the for-profit bail
industry has thus created a way to profit
from usurping the role and function of
the courts, trapped families in debt while
escaping scrutiny for consumer practices,
made armed arrests and surveilled people
without meaningful oversight by police,
and evaded insurance regulators. This
report includes original and secondary
research and stories from news media
across the country about individuals
harmed by bail corporations and the forprofit bail system overall.
Calls to eliminate the for-profit bail
industry have persisted for a century,
from publicly published studies in the
1920s to Robert F. Kennedy to advocates
and community leaders today.1 Many
jurisdictions across the country are now
trying to minimize or eliminate both the
destructive role of money bail and the bail
corporations that sustain it. Yet on the
whole, though the corruption and impact
of this system have been widely exposed,
the industry persists.
In light of these findings, we call on
state and federal regulators, attorneys
general, and legislators to immediately
investigate the industry and bring it out
of the shadows, building on the evidence
offered by this report. State and local
governments must respond to this wealthbased detention crisis and work to create a
stronger and fairer criminal justice system
that neither depends on the for-profit bail
industry nor supports it.

INTRODUCTION

04

In the United States, a person is locked into a
state or local jail nearly 11 million times a year,
and unaccountable corporations have taken
over our public authority as the gatekeepers
for our bail system in order to profit.

05

Introduction

O

ver more than 20 years,
the use of money bail has
grown substantially.2 In
the period from 1990 to
2009, in the majority of
the nation, the proportion of jail releases
involving the private bail industry doubled
for people arrested for felonies. 3 Bail
amounts have risen, too. 4 The national
median for bail for a felony arrest is now
$10,000, while the Federal Reserve has
found that nearly half of Americans would
be unable to pay for an unexpected
expense of $400. 5

Unsurprisingly, an increasing number of
Americans cannot afford to pay these
bail amounts. With access to release
effectively based on wealth, millions of
American families have no option but to
pay nonrefundable premiums to the forprofit bail industry to secure release from
detention.
Along with the dramatic increase in the
use and amount of bail, the number of
nonconvicted people in jail6 has also
increased as the number of people who
are serving sentences from conviction has
shrunk.7

NOTE:

6

“Jail” refers to the local detention
facilities where people are incarcerated
while awaiting trial, awaiting sentencing
post-conviction, awaiting transfer
to another jurisdiction, or serving
sentences of under a year. This is
distinct from “prisons,” longer-term
facilities run by the state or the federal
government that typically hold people
with sentences of more than one year.

9

“Payday loan” refers to a type of
short-term borrowing where an
individual borrows a small amount
at a very high rate of interest. The
borrower typically writes a post-dated
personal check in the amount they wish
to borrow plus a fee in exchange for
cash. The loans often come due on the
borrower’s subsequent payday.

Across the United
States today, around
450,000 people—
approximately 70
percent of all people
in jail—sit in jail
though they remain
innocent in the eyes
of the law. 8
Many are stuck behind bars for weeks,
months, or even years because they and
their families cannot afford to pay bail.
As a result of either the cooperation or

neglect of prosecutors, judges, legislators,
and regulators, bail corporations have
been allowed to prey on low-income
people, Black people, and other people
of color who are already targeted and
disproportionately impacted at every
phase of the criminal justice process.
Like payday lenders9 who profit from
families’ needs for immediate funds,10 bail
corporations take advantage of the urgent
crisis of detention to lock people and their
families in bad contracts, surveillance and
control, and debt. No matter the eventual
outcome of the case, even in cases in
which the arrest itself is determined to be
wrongful, the money that families scrape
together to pay bail corporations is lost to
them forever.
The face of the bail industry is the
storefront of small bail bond companies
lining the streets near courthouses.
Familiar from TV and movies, they often
sport neon signs and catchy slogans.
Largely hidden is the role that insurance
companies play.
Behind the scenes, insurance companies
take a cut of nearly every bail premium
paid in the country. Increasingly, bail
insurers are part of major global finance
companies. There are now as many as
25,000 bail bond businesses across

06

Introduction

the country, but just a few insurance
companies back the vast majority of these
bonds.11 Based on the authors’ calculations,
just nine insurance companies back a
significant majority of the $14 billion in bail
bonds issued each year.12 Between agents
and insurance companies, the industry
collects around $2 billion a year.13 Estimates
vary from $1.4 to $2.4 billion; however,
opaque corporate finance reporting and
varied state and local recordkeeping hide
the true size of the industry.14
With only its bottom line to answer to,
the bail industry determines who it will
accept as customers (and on what terms)
and who will remain detained while their
cases slowly make their way through a
complicated criminal justice system.
Trapping people behind bars simply
because they cannot afford to buy their
release is fundamentally unacceptable
and has severe consequences in people’s
lives. Detention in jail for even short
periods has been shown to have a longlasting impact on individuals’ employment,
financial, and family stability; increase
the risk of re-arrest; and make it far more
likely that individuals will be found guilty
or pressured into pleading guilty simply to
secure their own freedom from detention.
Moreover, jail is dangerous in itself, and
may even be deadly.
Although the scale of the industry today
makes addressing this reality more
challenging and urgent than ever, it is
not a new problem. Within years of the
bail industry’s emergence around 1900,
there were already wide calls for reform.15
Those demands continue to be voiced

07

loudly today, with courts, police chiefs,
communities, and others across the legal
system calling for an end to the injustice
and corruption of for-profit bail.16
Despite nearly a century of efforts to fix
the deep injustices presented by money
bail and the for-profit bail industry,
insurance companies and their trade
associations have used millions of dollars
in donations to politicians—and effectively
leveraged relationships with groups like
the right-wing, pro-privatization ALEC
—to successfully resist reform and write
their own rules.
Recently, some communities have
succeeded in fighting back and breaking
the cycle, with the support of judges, law
enforcement, regulators, agencies, and
legislators. In January 2017, New Jersey
began to implement statewide reforms
that will largely eliminate wealth-based
release,17 backed by all branches of state
government and also by popular vote.
At the same time, New Orleans passed a
long-fought measure to reform the use
of money bail for many violations of city
ordinances.18 Also in 2017, two California
legislators introduced legislation to
dramatically reduce reliance on money bail.
Other jurisdictions are making changes
following litigation challenging money
bail and its implementation. More cities,
counties, and states are taking steps
to stop corporations from exploiting
people and their families through bail,
and from sapping resources from entire
communities. Successful alternatives to
commercial money bail exist around the
country.19

Introduction

B

altimore’s City Paper exposed how Demorrea
Tarver and his family fell into the trap of forprofit bail in 2008 on Tarver’s first and only
arrest, at 18 years old, in Maryland. Unable to pay the
full premium to a bail agent, his family entered into an
installment plan.
Though the charges were completely dropped weeks
after the arrest, “even with monthly payments, Tarver
owes more today than the day he took out the bond.”
Tarver, now a 26-year-old father, and his mother are
struggling just to make interest payments.20

08

AT
A
GLANCE:
A VIEW OF THE BAIL INDUSTRY
The Prevalence of Money Bail
• People were booked into local and county jails 10.9 million times in 2015. 21
• On any given day, around 440,000 people remain detained in the United
States without having been convicted of a crime. That’s 70 percent of the
people in jail.22
• From 1990 to 2009, people charged with felonies were increasingly
required to pay money bail for their release—growing from 37 percent
to 61 percent—and the percentage released on their own recognizance
plummeted in the majority of the nation. 23
• Ninety percent of those in jail awaiting resolution of felony charges in
2009 were detained even though bail had been set. 24

The For-Profit Bail
Industry

Awaiting trial

Convicted

70%

of the people in jail have not
been convicted of a crime.

$1.4 - $2.4 billion

collected per year by bail industry.

09

• Fewer than 10 insurance companies
are behind a significant majority of bonds
issued by as many as 25,000 bail bond
agents.
• These insurers collect around 10
percent of the premium bail agents charge
families.
• Between bail agents and their insurance
backers, the industry collects between
$1.4 billion and $2.4 billion a year. The true
size of the industry is hidden by opaque
corporate finance reporting and varied
state and local recordkeeping.31
• The bail insurers have used ALEC to
promote and pass at least 12 different
model bills to insulate and expand
for-profit bail’s role.

The High Cost of
For-Profit Money Bail

Releases using for-profit bail
1990

Using for-profit bail is the most common
form of release, doubling from 24 percent
to 49 percent of releases from jail from
1990 to 2009.25
• The national median for bail for a
felony arrest is now $10,000, though in
some jurisdictions it can be much higher;
for example, the median in California is
$50,000.26
• An estimated $14 billion in bonds are
secured by for-profit bail each year.27
• Money paid to for-profit bailers, unlike
cash bail posted directly with the court,
is not refunded at the end of a case,
regardless of the outcome.

2009

24%
49%

National Felony Bail Median =

$10,000

$75 million

Charged in cases WITHOUT any finding of
wrongdoing in Maryland in five years.

Who Is Trapped by Money Bail
• Maryland’s Office of the Public Defender found that over a five-year period,
“more than $75 million in bail bond premiums were charged in cases that were
resolved without any finding of wrongdoing,” more than twice the premium
charged in cases resulting in a conviction in District Court.28
• For-profit bond premiums cost families in Maryland more than $250 million, not
including interest or fees over five years. Those payments were concentrated in
Maryland’s poorest communities and overwhelmingly paid by Black people.29
• In New Orleans, in 2015, nearly 4,900 families paid $4.7 million in nonrefundable
premiums to for-profit bail companies for misdemeanors and felonies. Black New
Orleans residents paid 84 percent of bail premiums and associated fees. 30
• Four states do not allow for-profit bail: Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Wisconsin.

WHAT IS A SURETY?

T

he “insurance” for bail is different from
typical car, home, life, or health insurance.
Bail is a type of “surety bond.” Other
typical surety bonds include construction
bonds and other contract performance bonds. With
surety bonds, the insurance company guarantees to
a third party that the person or entity seeking the
bond can fulfill their obligations. They require the
person seeking the bond to indemnify the insurer,
guaranteeing payment and costs, and leaving the
insurer on the hook only as a last resort.

11

HOW
DOES A
FOR-PROFIT
BAIL BOND
WORK?

12

When a person is arrested and booked into
jail, a court will typically determine whether
they are eligible for release while their case
is in progress and may set conditions under
which they can go home for the weeks,
months, or even years it may take for a case
to wind its way through the court system.
One increasingly common condition of
release is the payment of money bail. 32

13

How Does a For-Profit Bail Bond Work?

W

hen people are faced
with a money bail
amount they are unable
to afford, they or their families are most
likely to pay a private bail bond company.
Across the country, the bail industry is
estimated to back around $14 billion in
bail bonds a year, generating revenues
estimated at $1.4 billion to $2.4 billion. 33
These bail bond companies charge a
nonrefundable fee of typically 10 percent
of the full bail amount. 34 For lower bond
amounts especially, fees may far exceed
10 percent. 35 Some bail bond agents take
less than 10 percent upfront and set up
installment plans.
Family members or friends must often cosign contracts with the bail bond industry;
they guarantee to the bond agent that
they will be responsible for paying the
full bail amount if the person does not
appear in court or violates the terms of the
contract. Bail agents often require people

and their families to put up property and
other assets as collateral. Most contracts
reviewed by the authors of this report have
also included additional fees and often
onerous conditions on a person and their
co-signers. 36
When the bail bond agent has been paid,
the agent will file a bond with the court to
obtain the person’s release. The bond is a
legal promise to pay the bail in full if the
court declares the bond forfeited, which
may be triggered for failure to appear.
Most bail bond agents are backed by a
bail insurance corporation as “surety.”37
The bail agents pay a percentage, usually
around 10 percent of the premium they
charge, to an insurance company for
underwriting. Bail bond agents guarantee
they’ll be responsible for any forfeitures,
but they also typically pay another 10
percent into a “Build-Up Fund” that the
insurer holds onto as a reserve to make
sure that funds will be available.

to
%
10

il
Ba

10% to

B

d
on

Global

t

n
ge

a

Insurer

14

15

HOW
FOR-PROFIT
MONEY BAIL
FUELS MASS
INCARCERATION

16

While this bail process plays out daily in
most of the United States, it is far from
the norm. Only the United States and the
Philippines allow a for-profit bail industry. 38

17

T

he growth of money bail
has gone hand-in-hand
with the massive expansion
of mass incarceration and
plays a key role in perpetuating the cycle
of criminalization and conviction that has
targeted low-income Black communities
and communities of color. The for-profit
bail industry has captured nearly all of the
increase in money bail releases over nearly
two decades. The trap of money bail is
central to prosecutors’ ability to extract
guilty pleas without trials, and the industry
profits from the impossible dilemmas
facing detained people.
The U.S. Constitution does not take denial
of liberty lightly—people who have not
been convicted of a crime generally have
the right to go home to maintain jobs, pay
their bills, take care of loved ones, and
mount a defense while their case continues.
Yet on any given day, around 450,000
people remain detained across the country
without having been convicted of a crime.
Ninety percent of people in jail awaiting
resolution of felony charges in 2009 in the
majority of the nation were still detained
even though bail had been set. 39 In
Arizona, a county attorney acknowledged,
“most low-risk people who can’t pay their
bail are being held by a city or town for
failing to appear for a traffic ticket.” 40 The
industry-backed expansion of money bail
detains people most impacted by deep
disparities in wealth, income, and economic
opportunity: The Prison Policy Initiative
found that Black men and women ages
23 to 39 held in local jails had earned a
median income of only $900 and $568,
respectively, 41 in the month prior to being
held. 42

How For-Profit Money Bail Fuels Mass Incarceration

There is enormous and arbitrary variation
as well as demonstrated racial disparity
in the bail amounts and conditions set for
people. Release determinations and bail
amounts diverge widely judge by judge,
court by court, and state by state—based
on prosecutors’ demands, bail schedules,
and judicial choice, and the laws and rules
of the jurisdiction. Research has shown
that money bail determinations are racially
disparate, compounding the huge disparity
in arrests, charges, and incarceration faced
by Black people at every stage of the
criminal justice system.43 Black defendants
between 18 and 29 received higher
bail amounts and were less likely to be
released on recognizance than were white
defendants.	

Research in New
York City found that,
controlling for other
factors, the likelihood
of conviction jumped
from 50% to 92% when
people remained in
jail while their cases
proceeded.44
Beyond the dangers and disruption of jail,
pretrial detention was the biggest predictor
of conviction—largely due to pleas.
Once people are trapped in detention
by bail they cannot afford, and which
research shows is racially discriminatory,
prosecutors can use detention or the
promise of release as a prod to extract
guilty pleas, especially at the outset of a
court process, when people may not have
even minimal legal representation in many
states.

18

How For-Profit Money Bail Fuels Mass Incarceration

The conservative Yankee Institute for
Public Policy and Reason Foundation
explained:

“Many poor defendants who can neither
afford to post bond nor languish in jail
while awaiting trial are incentivized to
plead guilty to charges even if they’re
innocent.
The resulting criminal conviction poses a
slew of barriers for individuals attempting
to re-enter society.” 45
The push to plead—regardless of
long-term collateral consequences—is
particularly strong for the vast numbers
of people charged with low-level offenses
that would not often include any jail time
for a conviction. 46

19

THE
CORPORATIONS
PROFITING
FROM
MONEY BAIL

20

The top nine bail insurers cover the vast
majority of the estimated $14 billion in
bond posted by the for-profit bail industry
each year.

21

The Corporations Profiting from Money Bail

W

ith the freedom of
millions of people
at stake, it’s crucial
to uncover who profits from the status
quo. On the front line, bail bond agents
are the most direct beneficiaries and the
only piece of the corporate bail system
that most people see. Thousands of these
individual agents and bail bond agencies
collect fees. With storefronts lined up near
courts and lists of bail companies next to
jail phones, the industry appears highly
local and decentralized.

But behind the storefronts,
a small number of insurance
companies take a cut of
nearly all the bail bond
premiums collected by bail
agencies in the country. While
there are still around 30 bail
insurance companies, the top
nine bail insurers cover the
vast majority of the estimated
$14 billion in bond posted by
the for-profit bail industry
each year.
Bail insurance is increasingly part of
larger, often global companies, and it is a
small part of their businesses. Traded in
London, Tokyo, and Toronto, or registered
in tax havens like the Cayman Islands
and Bermuda, these corporations and
executives operate far from the influence
of the people and communities over whom
they hold power.

sureties and bought a wholesale bail
agency in 2016.47 And Toronto-based
Fairfax Financial, which now owns multiple
bail insurers, is a nearly $10 billion global
insurance and financial empire.
Private equity company Endeavour Capital
owns a majority stake in the nation’s
largest bail agency, Aladdin Bail Bonds, and
its dedicated insurance company, along
with an array of retail, manufacturing,
and other brands. Aladdin far outstrips
competitors in California, writing around
half of bonds posted in San Mateo County
over the last two years, and nearly 40
percent in Santa Clara County in 2015.
The company has grown substantially: Its
insurer, Seaview, reported $9.5 million in
annual premiums from bail, which suggests
it is backing nearly a billion dollars in bail
bonds in a year.48
In addition to the global giants, there
are several privately held domestic
bail insurers. These include most of
the members of the bail insurers’ trade
organization that drives the industry’s
political muscle, the American Bail
Coalition. These companies include Floridabased Bankers Surety, which also offers
retail home, flood, and other insurance; AIA
Holdings (Allegheny Casualty Company);
American Surety Company; Roche Surety
and Casualty Company; Financial Casualty
& Surety; and longtime Maryland-based
Lexington National Insurance Company.

For example, Tokio Marine, Japan’s largest
property and casualty insurer, which
earned nearly $40 billion in revenue
globally last year, owns multiple bail

22

The Corporations Profiting from Money Bail	

The Big Corporations Behind Bail

$40
Billion

HCC Surety
American Contractors Indemnity Company

JAPAN

United States Surety
U.S. Specialty Insurance
Bail USA

$9.5
Billion

Bail insurance is
increasingly part of larger,
often global companies.
These corporations and
executives operate far from
the influence of the people
and communities over
whom they hold power.

United States Fire Insurance
The North River insurance
Seneca Insurance

CANADA

$100
Million

Accredited Surety

ENGLAND /
BERMUDA

Everyone else.

Seaview Insurance
Aladdin Bail bonds / Two Jinn

Bankers Surety

IFIC Allegheny Casualty Co.

The Corporations Profiting from Money Bail

Bail Insurance Corporations Reap Rewards on Low Risk
Bail insurers have shaped the industry
to protect their profits. While the industry touts the risk of forfeiting bail as the
primary incentive for performance, bail
insurance companies put the responsibility for losses onto the bail agents—who
in turn routinely put the responsibility on
families.
As an example, a 2013 contract between
Bankers Surety and a bail bond agency
required the agency to take “all liability
for any undertaking of bail,” including
requiring full payment of all forfeitures,
losses, costs, or expenses to the insurer,
with interest.49 In the event that all those
protections don’t work, insurers have as
backup the Build-Up Fund, paid into by the
bail agent with a percentage of each bond.
For the insurance companies, the system

Tokio Marine
Fairfax Financial Holdings
Randall & Quilter
Endeavour Capital
Bankers Financial
AIA Holdings
Financial Casualty & Surety
Lexington National
ASC-USI

works; they collect hundreds of millions of
dollars a year in their cut of the bail premiums and face virtually no risk.
For-profit bail insurers are different from
other backers of surety bonds. In surety
bonds, the insurer is responsible for losses
only as a last resort, but over the first three
months of 2015, the top 100 surety bond
writers50 combined still had direct losses
averaging 13.2 percent on $1.34 billion in

$14 billion

Bail Agents

“Typically, in the bail bond business, agents are responsible for any losses they incur.
This responsibility is reflected in the fact that the Company sustained no losses on
this book of business in 2015 and 2014.” 51
—Reported an affiliate of AIA Holdings, one of the largest bail insurers
In 2013, AIA’s chief legal officer, Jerry Watson, told a reporter of his 107-year-old company,
“You know how many checks has [sic] this company written to pay a bail loss? …Not a
single one.”52
Continental Heritage Insurance Company, a smaller bail insurer, was even clearer:
“The company has not paid a loss on its waste surety or bail segments during the
past 17 years.” 53

24

The Corporations Profiting from Money Bail	

coverage written. But bail insurers have
boasted how low their risks are:
In financial filings, the bail insurers say that
even reported losses are not necessarily
real. In its 2015 filings with California’s Department of Insurance, Lexington National
reported that losses are mostly a timing
issue and are usually recouped. 54
As further protection, the bail industry has
worked to change laws and rules to limit
industry responsibility for payment, and to

25

hinder or undo changes and improvements
in pretrial practices. 55 With a steady stream
of profits with little risk, it’s no surprise
that the bail insurers lead efforts to fight
reform, write the rules, and protect their
cash flows.

HOW BAIL
CORPORATIONS
CONTROL
PEOPLE’S
FREEDOM

26

“They’re innocent until proven guilty, but
the bail system assumes they’re guilty.”
— Judge W. Kent Hamlin
Superior Court of Fresno County, California

27

How Bail Corporations Control People’s Freedom

How Bail Corporations Decide Who Is and Isn’t Set Free

A

s paying private bail bond
corporations has become
an increasingly common
form of release, these
private businesses have
effectively become decision-makers for
whether millions of people can walk free.
The American Bar Association was clear
whose interests come first:
“It is the bondsmen who decide which
defendants will be acceptable risks…
Decisions of bondsmen—including what
fee to set, what collateral to require, what
other conditions the defendant (or the
person posting the fee and collateral)
is expected to meet, and whether to
even post the bond—are made in secret,

The impact of detention on people left in
jail can be enormous. In recent years, there
has been a steady drumbeat of horror
stories of individuals trapped in jail due to
inability to pay money bail. For 28-yearold Sandra Bland, who died in a Waller
County, Texas, jail, unaffordable bail played
a key role in the path from a traffic stop
for a failure to signal to tragedy. At the
time of her death, Bland had spent three
days in jail, unable to raise $515 to pay a
bail company to post bond. She was one
of hundreds of people who had not been
convicted that year who lost their lives in
jails. 58 In Harris County, Texas alone, 55
people died behind bars without being
convicted of a crime between 2009 and
2015. 59 Beyond the tragedies, jail exposes
people to danger, trauma, the risk of
violence and disease, and it exacerbates
mental illness, addiction, and other medical
conditions.60

without any record of the reasons for these
decisions.” 56
That something as fundamental as the
ability to get out of jail has been taken over
by the private decisions of profit-seeking
companies and their corporate backers is
dangerous. Opaque corporate judgments
of who to accept, who to ignore, and
what to require can shield discriminatory
practices and abuse. And since forprofit bail companies make money as a
percentage of the bail amount set, they
have an incentive to seek out people facing
higher bail, which typically reflect a court’s
perception of higher risk, while people with
few resources and lower bail may not be
seen as worthwhile clients.

The Colorado Criminal Defense Institute
found that being held in detention led to
a long list of devastating consequences:
loss of jobs and destruction of businesses,
evictions, loss of personal and family
belongings and equipment needed to work,
family and custody disruptions, and lost
educational opportunities. 61 Detention also
led to increased public costs, as people and
their families required homeless shelters,
public assistance, and public defenders
during and after their detention. 62
The freedom of millions of people who
pass through the country’s jails each year
is too critical to allow for-profit interests
to hold the keys. It also sets up taxpayers
to pay the costs of jailing some 430,000
people every day who are presumed
innocent, at a daily cost of between $50
and $350 per person, amounting to billions
of dollars per year.63

S

eattle Weekly uncovered how Cedric
Smith’s freedom was
denied by for-profit
bail. Facing $10,000 bail, and
with some money saved, a fulltime job, a stable place to live,
and the means to support himself, Smith expected to put up
$1,000 and return home, but
he was rejected. Smith asserted his innocence, refusing to
accept an offer to plead guilty,
and was jailed until his case
was dismissed 41 days later.
When Smith was finally freed,
he needed food stamps to eat
and a new job.57

How Bail Corporations Control People’s Freedom

How Bail Corporations Trap People in Debt
For-profit bail bond companies take
advantage of the urgency of detention to
bind people to contracts that can mean
debt and payments that last far longer
than any court proceedings. Like payday
lenders that prey on families in crisis, bail
companies profit from an imbalance of
knowledge, power, and a lack of options
that can trap families into cycles of debt so

that even though they are not jailed, they
are not free. Whereas bail posted directly
with the court is returned to the family
that posted it when charges are dropped,
for-profit bail companies keep the premium
they’ve collected—even when charges are
dropped or an arrest is deemed wrongful—collecting millions from innocent
people.

• In just five months of 2016, nearly 200 people in California’s San Joaquin County paid
for-profit bail companies to be freed from jail when no case was even filed and the charges
were dropped. For-profit bail companies would likely have charged these families around
$400,000 to post the bonds. 64
• A November 2016 report by Maryland’s Office of the Public Defender found that over a
five-year period, “more than $75 million in bail bond premiums were charged in cases
that were resolved without any finding of wrongdoing,” more than twice the premium
charged in cases resulting in a conviction in District Court. 65

Often, for-profit bail companies advertise
steep discounts in upfront payments from
the typical 10 percent premium. But when
families pay less than the full premium
upfront, the remaining debt on the installment plan is still owed to the bail bond
company long after charges are resolved
or dropped, even though the company
has no further obligation to the court and
faces zero financial risk of having to pay
out on the bond. These ongoing debts can

29

stretch for years and be a severe hardship
for families, and they can push families into
collections, interest payments, bad credit,
wage garnishment, and more.

I

n San Francisco, Carlos Valiente was arrested and
had bail set at $70,000. Valiente (a construction
worker who earned $14 an hour) and his mother paid
California’s largest bail bond agency, Aladdin, $1,000
and owe Aladdin an additional $6,000 in installments.
Valiente’s case was dismissed, but he still owes Aladdin
more than $6,000, which he will try to pay off over the
next four to five years, reported KQED.66

TH
R
JA EAT
ILI O
NG F

How Bail Corporations Control People’s Freedom

DEBT

How Bail Corporations Control People’s Freedom

Bail companies generally have family
members on the hook and liens on homes
or other assets that keep strong pressure
to pay. For example, a Baltimore reporter
revealed that although Rafiq Shaw was
found innocent of charges stemming from
a Maryland arrest, he was left owing
$8,000 in weekly $100 payments after
paying an initial $2,000 with money from
his fiancée and mother, along with all of his
savings. Shaw’s mother is the guarantor
and said “the bondsman calls her every few
weeks, threatening garnishment if the debt
isn’t paid.” For Shaw and his fiancée, who
have an infant, he stated, “There’s no way
I can pull it off.”

I

n California, Melodie Henderson testified at a legislative
hearing about the impact of paying bail on her family
and life. Assemblyman Rob Bonta wrote: “After being
arrested, she had a choice—pay the bail bondsman
and go into debt, or sit for days in jail until her court date
and risk her job, apartment, car and family. It wasn’t a
real choice. Henderson spent years trying to pay back
the bail bondsman. She postponed school, borrowed
tens of thousands of dollars from her grandparents, got
dangerously behind on other bills and severely damaged her
credit. She suffered from depression. And she’s considered
one of the lucky ones because she was able to secure the
money and her freedom.” 68

How Bail Corporations Sap
Low-Income Communities
For-profit bail saps communities of resources they need. Over five years, for-profit
bond premiums cost families in Maryland more than $250 million, not including
interest or fees. A study found that those payments were concentrated in Maryland’s
poorest communities and overwhelmingly paid by Black people, compounding
the drain of resources and the impact of disparate policing on already struggling
communities. 69
Similarly, in a study of people arrested in New Orleans in 2015 for misdemeanors and
felonies, nearly 4,900 families paid $4.7 million in nonrefundable premiums to forprofit bail companies. Black New Orleans residents were disproportionately impacted
and paid 84 percent of the bail premiums and associated fees. These millions were
a real hardship for people and their families in a city where 85 percent of defendants
are too poor to hire an attorney. One person interviewed said, “My momma said
she put up about, I want to say about $1,500. Like, she didn’t pay her light bill a
couple times. She didn’t pay her rent a couple times.”70

31

How Bail Corporations Control People’s Freedom

How Bail Corporations Rig Contracts and Shift Risk to Families
Contracts with corporate insurers and
bail agents are filled with terms that
give the corporations immense power
over the person to be released and their
family and friends who co-sign. With
continued incarceration as the alternative
to accepting the bail industry’s terms,
people and their families have little ability

to contest the one-sided and complex
contracts they sign. Though contracts vary
and state laws often regulate terms, the
authors of this report reviewed several
bail agent and surety contracts and found
common themes requiring contract signers
to do the following:

*This mock contract is for example
only. It is not intended to reflect
any real or existing entity; rather
it is meant to demonstrate the
effects of certain provisions in bail
bond contracts.

CT
BA IL BOND CONTRA

ed with the bond.
Pay all the costs associkinatg bail and their families may be on the hook for any costs, ex-mand
le see
ration the right to de
Beyond the premium, peop
tracts may give the corpo
con
il
Ba
.
nd
bo
the
h
wit
penses, and fees involved
urer demands it.	
are even incurred if the ins
payment before the costs

eillance.
ity, they
Submit to invasive sutrarv
to be released from captiv
cts with bail corporations

o con
damental
When individuals enter int
in order to exercise their fun
ess
sin
bu
e
vat
pri
a
to
y
and
privac
vehicle tracking, physical
sign away basic rights and
searches without a warrant,
to
rs
ive
wa
n
es
rso
lud
pe
inc
ed
is
Th
eas
right to liberty.
information for both the rel
eeping access to personal
sw
and
ce,
llan
typically passed on
vei
sur
l
ita
dig
ors. Surveillance costs are
nit
em
ind
as
n
sig
coo
wh
and their friends or family
and families.
to contracted individuals

to jail
people and return them
st
re
ar
to
es
ni
pa
m
co
il
Allow ba
court appearances)

g all their
l not appear
(Even if they’re mak in
re risk that the person wil
ofit bail agents face no mo

ding
jail, for-pr
sic application for the lea
By taking a person back to
der the bond filed. The ba
un
ty
bili
nsi
ht as a
po
flig
res
of
re
eat
mo
thr
than the
in court and have no
National, includes far more
ton
ing
Lex
,
ion
value
rat
the
po
in
cor
p
that a dro
Maryland bail insurance
of collateral, which means
ue
val
the
in
es
ng
cha
es
lud
jail.
reason for re-arrest. It inc
ld send a person back to
guarantee a bail bond cou
to
d
use
ily
make payto
fam
a
t
ure
tha
fail
car
for
of a home or
nts for arrest
rra
wa
and
n
tio
oca
rev
l
bai
nies to seek
g a job without immediateContracts allow bail compa
nected, and even for gettin
con
dis
ing
be
er
mb
nu
e
on
ments, for a contact ph
ny.
ly notifying the bail compa

llateral and demanding
co
on
g
in
os
cl
re
fo
or
Allow selling
d in
additional collateral.
l bond companies have file
dozens of lawsuits that bai

ger found
ed to keep up their
In New Jersey, the Star-Led
family “after defendants fail
and
s
nd
frie
t
ins
aga
te
courthouses across the sta
71
end of the deal.”

How Bail Corporations Enforce Control
The immense power that bail corporations
and their agents have over the people
bound to their contracts is inherently
coercive, and journalists and communities
have repeatedly reported overt extortion,
sexual coercion, vigilantism, and
corruption.
And reality TV plays up the drama of
Dog the Bounty Hunter, while armed bail
agents and the bounty hunters72 they
use as subcontractors wield the tools of
arrest, foreclosure, and force in the course
of regular business, with varied and often
inadequate training, regulation, and
oversight.
For example, in 2015, bail bond agents
in Florida injured a woman at a fast-food
drive-through while attempting to capture
another person in the car. The woman was

33

shot in the head, apparently inadvertently,
in the bond agents’ attempts to arrest a
client who had failed to appear for court. 73
According to insurance executive and
industry legal defender Jerry Watson,
a person using for-profit bail “implicitly
agrees that the bondsman may use
reasonable force in apprehending him.
The bail contract underscores the private
nature of the surety’s right of recapture
and is the basis for the expectation that
the government will not interfere.” 74
So for-profit bail has been allowed to
privatize law enforcement functions
without real protections for the people
who’ve signed their contracts or for the
bystanders and community members who
may find themselves in the way of forprofit bail’s pursuit of its own interests.

HOW THE
BAIL INDUSTRY
EVADES
OVERSIGHT AND
REGULATION

34

In a 2014 report, the New Jersey State
Commission of Investigation wrote,
“Operating in the shadows of poor
government oversight, the system is
dominated by an amalgam of private
entrepreneurs who profit from the process
but are subject to weak controls easily
manipulated or ignored with little or no
consequence.”76

35

T

he regulation of bail
corporations and agents
varies state by state. Bail
insurers are generally regulated by state
insurance regulators. In many states,
including New York, California, and Florida,
they also regulate and license individual
agents. Other states regulate bail agents
through state, county, or local regulators.
This piecemeal regulatory system means
that for-profit bail has privatized a crucial
piece of the criminal justice system and
gained control over people but isn’t fully
under the control of the courts; it traps
families into debt but has escaped scrutiny
for its consumer practices; and it arrests
and follows people without full oversight
by police.
Instead, the for-profit bail industry benefits
from being a comparatively small part of
the insurance business regulated by state
insurance divisions. These regulators
have responsibilities over companies
selling health, life, car, home, and business
insurance and more. For example, the
New York State Department of Financial
Services’ Insurance Division oversees
nearly 1,700 insurance companies with
assets exceeding $4.2 trillion, while
there are only 25 insurance companies
in New York with agents listed under the
bail laws.75 States like Maryland, whose
insurance regulators play a more active
role, enable the industry’s conduct,
approving rates and terms that fail to
protect people.
This has allowed for-profit bail to run
rampant. Before New Jersey passed
sweeping bail reform that massively
reduced the use of money bail, an
investigation by the State Commission
of Investigation found “endemic”
problems with the industry and described
the regulation of the bail industry
as “diminished and archaic” and a
“bureaucratic afterthought.” In a 2014
report, the commission wrote, “Operating
in the shadows of poor government

How the Bail Industry Evades Oversight and Regulation

oversight, the system is dominated by an
amalgam of private entrepreneurs who
profit from the process but are subject
to weak controls easily manipulated or
ignored with little or no consequence.” 76
New Jersey’s findings of endemic failures
were echoed when the Minnesota
Department of Commerce announced a
settlement in January 2016 that entered
into consent orders with all 21 insurance
companies that provide surety bonds to
the 41 bail bond agencies operating in
Minnesota. The Minnesota Commerce
Commissioner said,

“Enforcement action
was necessary
because too many
people in the bail
bond industry
thought they were in
the Wild West.”77
In the last few years, the California
Department of Insurance (CDI)
Commissioner, Dave Jones, has sought
unsuccessfully to increase funding the
department receives to monitor for-profit
bail. Until now, CDI has reported that
bail is less than 2 percent of the state
insurance market but more than 10 percent
of its enforcement workload.78 Between
2010 and 2015, complaints about forprofit bail to the CDI nearly quadrupled,
with common complaints including
scams, misrepresentation, extortion and
kidnapping, bribery, perjury, theft, fraud,
and more. 79
When CDI invested more substantial
resources in enforcement, the result was
Operation Bail Out, in which 31 bail agents
from seven different bail bond agencies
across five northern California counties
were arrested in September 2015. The

36

How the Bail Industry Evades Oversight and Regulation	

sweep followed an extensive investigation
into illegal business practices, corruption,
illegal solicitation, and more.80
Similarly, a study found that in 2008, while
Colorado’s insurance regulators oversaw
approximately 550 bail bonding agents out
of 110,500 regulated insurance producers
(less than half of 1 percent), bail bond
agents accounted for a majority of all their
enforcement actions for the year (99 out
of 180).81
While even centralized state insurance
regulation leaves for-profit bail slipping
through the cracks, Texas’ system leaves
gaping holes. For-profit bail is regulated
at the county level by bail bond boards
in larger counties and by registration
with sheriffs in counties with fewer than
110,000 people. Bryan Clayton, first

37

assistant district attorney for the 119th
Judicial District, told reporters that the
counties that lack bail bond boards “are
just the wild, wild West.” 82 These sprawling
counties are not permitted to require
licensing or collateral from bond agents,
and they have little capacity to oversee
and verify bond agent claims, according to
an investigation by Dallas News.
New Jersey, Minnesota, and others have
found that failures affected nearly the
whole industry in their states, enabled by
gaps in oversight and regulation that hid
the conduct found by these regulators.
This overt misconduct compounds all the
harm and costs to people and families that
have been allowed as this private, for-profit
industry has increasingly dominated the
process of release from detention.

BAIL
INSURANCE
CORPORTIONS
ENLIST
LAWMAKERS
TO KEEP
CONTROL

38

The reach of the American Bail Coalition—
and therefore the for-profit bail industry—
into legislatures is far beyond what the trade
association’s small size would suggest.

39

B

ail insurers lead national
efforts to keep for-profit
bail embedded in the
criminal justice system with proactive
efforts to craft laws in their favor. They
fund lawmakers and lobbyists to keep
their access and resist when courts,
communities, and legislators demand
change.
When for-profit bail speaks, it’s usually the
insurers talking through the American Bail
Coalition (ABC). ABC has been working
together to fight reform since 1992.83 In
recent years, it has been increasing its
activity and funding, with contributions
tripling to nearly $1.2 million from 2012 to
2014. Executive Director Jeffrey Clayton
says of ABC’s role in policy-setting
that affects the bail industry, “If it gets
wheels, we will get involved.”84 ABC
pops up nationwide at local hearings, in
statehouses, in the media, and recently, in
the involvement of former Solicitor General
Paul Clement defending the industry in
litigation challenging the constitutionality
of wealth-based detention in Georgia and
Texas. 85
The reach of the ABC—and therefore the
for-profit bail industry—into legislatures
is far beyond what the trade association’s
small size would suggest. ABC’s outsized
influence has come in no small part from
its “life-preserver,” a more than 20-year
relationship with ALEC, a pro-privatization
group funded by corporations.86 Through
ALEC, corporations and state politicians
meet and agree on model policies on a
wide range of issues (such as stand-yourground laws and controversial antiimmigration legislation, including Arizona’s
SB 1070). 87
ABC Board Chair Bill Carmichael, president
of American Surety Company, serves as
Chairman of the ALEC Private Enterprise
Advisory Council.88,89 This continues a
long line of bail insurance executives and
ABC staff and officers with prominent

Bail Insurance Corporations Enlist Lawmakers to Keep Control

ALEC positions. From 2014 through 2016,
outgoing ABC Executive Director Nicholas
Wachinski was named the Private Sector
Chair of ALEC’s American City County
Exchange.90
For-profit bail has used ALEC to promote
and pass at least 12 different model bills to
insulate and expand for-profit bail’s role,
including four bills requiring full cash or
fully secured bail or restricting personal
and deposit bonds, four bills restricting
instances when for-profit bail can be
required to pay out, and a bill91 passed in
Florida and Texas and introduced federally
that burdens pretrial services with
excessive reporting and diverts resources
from providing services. 92
ALEC helped ABC spread the industrywritten bill inventing “post-conviction”
bonds, which open a whole new set of
people and their families to the for-profit
bail trap. 93 In Mississippi, the first state to
pass a post-conviction bond law written
by the industry, Washington Monthly
reported on the impact of this new scheme:
Kristina Howell faced jail if she was unable
to pay a $1,044 fine, so she paid a bail
bond company $155—more than half her
earnings for a week—to get two months
to pay her fine or be returned to jail. Two
months later, still owing more than $700,
she pawned her engagement ring and
a gold necklace from her baptism. To
obtain the money, she’d fallen behind on
electricity bills and her internet was shut
off, and she still had to borrow from friends
to make the final payments before her final
court date. “Right now I’m just trying to
make enough money to keep anything else
from getting cut off,” she said. 94
While ALEC has shifted its position on
certain aspects of criminal justice and mass
incarceration in recent years, for-profit
bail continues to organize to defend the
privatization of release and to use the
access of ALEC to enable its hold.

40

Bail Insurance Corporations Enlist Lawmakers to Keep Control	

State by State: The For-Profit Bail Industry Fights Reform
State and local legislatures, elected judges,
prosecutors, sheriffs, and bail bond boards
set the rules and implementation of bail
and pretrial justice. So corporate bail
and its industry associations spend their
donations and lobbying money state by
state. In 10 key states, the for-profit bail
industry contributed more than $1.7 million
to state-level candidates, committees,
parties, or ballot measures in the 20102016 election cycles. 95 This conservative
figure from the National Institute on

Money in State Politics’ Follow the Money
database does not include contributions
from bail insurers with substantial business
interests beyond bail.

NOTE:

95

As families continue to pay the price of
for-profit bail’s control of the jailhouse
gates, the industry’s relatively modest
investment in key states has yielded many
returns.

Political Contributions By State

Unless otherwise specified, state
political donations data was obtained
from the National Institute on Money
in State Politics’ Follow the Money
Database by searching for donations
to candidates, parties, or committees
coded by NIMSP as Bail Bond Industry
for the election cycles from 2010 to
2016, along with searches for the
bail insurers that are primarily or
exclusively bail. Insurance companies
with significant other business were
omitted unless donations were directly
tied to a bail subsidiary. Given variation
in self-reported data, naming variation
(not all bail companies are readily
identifiable by name), and the lack of
a comprehensive list of bail agents—
who may contribute as individuals—
and companies, this approach is
conservative.

Contributions from the Bail Bond Industry for the election cycles from 2010 to 2016.
Source: National Institute on Money in State Politics Follow the Money Database

$322,765

$309,762
$296,921

$290,749

$135,747
$110,452

$93,637
$60,350

TX	

41

MD

FL	

CA	

GA	

WA

NC

OK	

$54,745

IN	

$52,732

PA

Bail Insurance Corporations Enlist Lawmakers to Keep Control

T

here are many examples
from across the country.
In Florida, in 2009, the
Broward County Commission cut pretrial
alternatives to bail after bail bond
companies donated thousands to the
campaigns of the county commissioners.96
In New Mexico, bail corporations and their
associations undermined 2016 legislative
reform efforts led by the state’s chief judge

so substantially that many advocates were
no longer able to support the effort.97
And in Connecticut, the bail industry
successfully mobilized in 2016 to stop the
governor’s plan that would have eliminated
bail for many misdemeanors—despite
strong support from the left and the right.98
This section highlights the influence of the
bail industry in two key states.

California:

Buying Influence at Every Level
For-profit bail corporations and
associations spend money to derail reforms
at every level in California.
At the state level, the industry vehemently
opposed the 2014 passage of Proposition
47, which reduced penalties for low-level
drug and petty theft offenses—offenses
that bail industry representatives
called the “bread and butter” of the bail
industry. 99 Led by Aladdin Bail Bonds
and Lexington National, the industry was
second only to law enforcement in funding
the opposition campaign.100
The industry’s opposition spending
on Proposition 47 was part of nearly
$300,000 in industry contributions to
statewide candidates and committees in
the 2010 to 2016 election cycles. With new
legislation proposed to reduce the use of
money bail and increase enforcement at
the state level, the industry is expected to
use all of its influence to resist reform.
Counties have been leading on bail reform
in California, so the industry has focused
on local officials to defang reform there
too. In October 2016, Santa Clara County

voted on reforms that will significantly
reduce the use of money bail. Leading up
to the vote, an elected county supervisor
extended the bail industry a “lifeline”
amid proposals that will radically reduce
the number of people who are presumed
innocent who are incarcerated in the
county. San Jose Inside reported that the
CEO of large California bail agency Bad
Boys Bail Bonds had held a fundraiser for
that supervisor’s failed 2014 mayoral run
at his Willow Glen home, and that he and
others in the industry had given $6,000 to
the supervisor’s political campaigns since
2012. 101
California’s corporate bail industry pays to
elect judges too, with $21,000 in campaign
contributions from 2010 to July 2016.102
The California Bail Agents Association
is also partnering with the national
Professional Bail Agents of the United
States to pay $50,000 to Republican
National Committee member Harmeet
Dhillon to support them in battling federal
lawsuits in California challenging the
constitutionality of the bail system
brought by Equal Justice Under Law. 103

42

Bail Insurance Corporations Enlist Lawmakers to Keep Control	

Maryland:

Fighting Reform on Insurers’ Home Turf
As Judge Ben C. Clyburn, Maryland, testified
at the General Assembly, “We are very
realistic in terms of bail here in Maryland. Bail
bondsmen they have a lobby - a very strong
lobby - and there is a reason why they’re still
here.” 104 Maryland’s bail lobby has succeeded
in preventing repeated attempts at reform,
though multiple studies have documented
failures in Maryland’s bail system for
decades. 105
The anchor of Maryland corporate bail’s
influence and the Maryland Bail Bonds
Association is the state’s main bail
corporation, Maryland-based Lexington
National Insurance Company, and familyowned Fred Frank Bail Bonds. Lexington
National’s agents collected more than $120
million in premiums from people and their
families in 2015, channeling more than $11
million to Lexington National. 106 At least
$220,000 in state political contributions
in the 2010 to 2016 election cycles came
from people or entities associated with the
companies and family. And in 2015, bolstering
its long-standing family connections,
Lexington National hired former American
Bail Coalition Executive Director Nick
Wachinski as CEO. 107

Extensive state-level research by Common
Cause, a nonpartisan group focused on
government accountability, found a focus on
the chairs of the committees that oversee
the industry’s legislation, with more than
$120,000 donated to two key chairmen
from 2011 to 2016. 108 Now former U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder is supporting
bail reform in Maryland, calling the current
system “irrational…unjust…and likely
unconstitutional,” and Maryland’s court
system and attorney general are working to
change the state’s unjust bail system. 109
Lexington National has brought in former
Solicitor General Paul Clement, who wrote
ABC’s amicus brief defending bail, 110 and the
industry has increased its donations, with
payments to Maryland politicians increasing
to $135,250 in just the first two years of the
current election cycle to confront the current
reform threat.
The bail industry is pushing for a bill to derail
the reforms, and in the week before the
2017 Maryland legislative session, Lexington
National poured more than $18,000 into
political contributions to Maryland state
legislators. 111

The Bail Industry at the Federal Level
Though most political activity by bail
insurers, corporations, and their associations
has occurred at the state and local levels, forprofit bail hasn’t ignored federal legislators.
Over five years, from 2011 through 2016, the
industry funded $500,000 in contributions
to federal candidates or committees. 112
In return, Representative Ted Poe (R-TX)
and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have
introduced a federal version of the ABC/
ALEC anti-pretrial services legislation.113 And
congressional opposition has surfaced to

43

fight efforts to eliminate money bail—most
notably, the No Money Bail Act, introduced
by Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA), which
would make states with money bail systems
ineligible for certain federal law enforcement
funding.114 With a new federal administration
and attorney general unlikely to challenge
the constitutionality of certain money bail
practices, the industry may shift its attention
to influencing federal legislators and
regulators to protect its profits.

CONCLUSIONS
AND
RECOMMENDATIONS

44

The for-profit bail industry allows large
corporations to manipulate our justice
system to serve their own financial interests
rather than justice. The profit-motivated
bail industry is unnecessary and inherently
abusive and exploitative.

45

Conclusions and Recommendations

F

or-profit bail presents barriers—to justice, to ensuring the public good, and
to guaranteeing our most basic constitutional freedoms—and should be
abolished. Until private companies are extricated from the pretrial justice
system, those with the power to investigate, regulate, and restrain the industry must
vigilantly do so, bringing it out of the shadows and building on the findings of this report.

Specifically, this report recommends the following:

• States should abolish the for-profit bail industry. Elected representatives
must end the bail insurance industry’s financial hold on millions of Americans each year.
• Where for-profit bail continues, state and federal regulators, attorneys general, and
legislators must immediately investigate the industry and conduct ongoing oversight.
Further investigations will bring more stories to light, create a greater understanding of
the perverse and harmful operations of the industry, and expose unethical activity.
• Judges and prosecutors should reevaluate their practices of assigning unaffordable
bail amounts and consider instead release on one’s own recognizance or, where
appropriate, reasonable non-financial conditions of release. Where courts order money
bail, they should rely on unsecured bonds rather than profit-motivated surety bonds.
• Legislators and public officials should respond to communities’ demands and work to
create a stronger and fairer criminal justice system that neither depends on money bail
nor supports it.
• Corporations interested in operating ethically should take a close look at their business
ties and investments and cut any ties to the bail industry.

46

Conclusions and Recommendations

Alternatives to Money Bail
Money bail, which drives people into
the hands of private bail corporations,
is not required to promote court
attendance and successful release.
Organizations like the Vera Institute
have identified proven opportunities
at nearly every stage in the arrest and
pretrial process to avoid the unjust
and costly consequences of trapping
people behind bars who have not
been convicted of a crime—including
avoiding detention through citations,
pre- or post-charge diversion, and earlier
hearings.115

Simple and low-cost
methods of support,
including automated
phone calls and
even text messages,
improve appearance
rates dramatically
without the burdens of
money bail or paying
for-profit bailers.

A 2005 study in Jefferson County,
Colorado, found that simply calling
defendants to remind them of their court
date brought failure-to-appears down to
8 percent from the county’s usual rate
of 21 percent. After Oregon’s Multnomah
County started using an automated
reminder system in 2005, its failureto-appear rate fell 31 percent; soon the
system was saving the county $1.55
million each year, according to a 2007
report by the Multnomah County Local
Public Safety Coordinating Council. 116
Alternatives that facilitate safe and
successful release and return for trial
without forcing people to pay for their
freedom have been implemented and
proven many times over many years, yet
they remain the exception due to the
persistent opposition of the industry
that profits from money bail.

Conclusions and Recommendations

DEFINTIONS

48

Definitions

Definitions
While popular media uses “bail” as the shorthand for “money bail,” “bail” is the set of conditions placed on a person to be released from
custody before trial in order to ensure appearance in court. There are monetary and non-monetary forms of bail. 117
Money bail: Most states provide people a few options to pay money bail, depending on the jurisdiction, the judge or magistrate, and the
resources of the person:

•	 Surety bail: This is the most common form of release. A private, for-profit bail bond agent files a bond with the court to guarantee
a person’s appearance in court or pay of the bond in full. Money paid to the agent is not returned at the end of the case.

•	 Other forms of money bail include cash bail, where a person or family member puts the full bail amount on deposit with the court;

deposit bail, where in some jurisdictions, people or their families can deposit a refundable percentage (often 10 percent) of the
total bail directly with the court with a promise to pay in full for failure to appear; and property bond, in which a person or someone
acting on their behalf pledges property to meet the bail set and the court places a lien on the property, which can be seized for
failure to appear. In all these cases, people and their families have their money or assets returned to them (sometimes minus certain
court fees) once the person has appeared at all necessary court proceedings.

Non-monetary bail includes release on recognizance, which frees someone on a signed guarantee to appear or a citation by law
enforcement; conditional release, which releases people to the supervision of pretrial services or other reporting, behavioral, or
monitoring conditions; and unsecured bond, which requires no upfront money, but the bail amount is owed in full for failure to appear.
Jail refers to the local detention facilities where people are incarcerated awaiting trial, sentencing post-conviction, or transfer to another
jurisdiction, or serving sentences of under a year. This is distinct from prisons, longer-term facilities run by the state or the federal
government that typically hold people with sentences of more than one year.

49

ENDNOTES

50

Endnotes

Endnotes
1

“For Better or for Profit: How the Bail Bonding Industry Stands in the Way of Fair and Effective Pretrial Justice.” Justice Policy
Institute, September 2012. Accessed February 11, 2017. http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/_for_
better_or_for_profit_.pdf and Brooker, Claire M., Michael R. Jones and Timothy R. Schnacke. “The History of Bail and Pretrial
Release.” Pretrial Justice Institute, September 24, 2010. Accessed February 11, 2017. http://pretrialnola.org/wp-content/
uploads/2015/09/09-24-2010-PJI-History-of-Bail.pdf.

2

Cohen, Thomas H., Ph.D. and Brian Reaves, Ph.D. “State Court Processing Statistics, 1990-2004: Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants
in State Courts.” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. November 2007, NCJ 214994. Accessed February 11, 2017.
https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/prfdsc.pdf.

3

This data set covers felonies in the 75 largest counties. Reaves, Brian, Ph.D., U.S. State Court Processing Statistics, “Felony Defendants
in Large Urban Counties, 2009-Statistical Tables.” Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
December 2013, NCJ 243777. Accessed February 11, 2017. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fdluc09.pdf.

4

Bozelko, Chandra. “The cash bail system should be eliminated rather than reformed.” The Guardian, February 5, 2016. Accessed
January 6, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/05/the-cash-bail-system-should-be-eliminatedrather-than-reformed; Council of Economic Advisers. “Fines, fees, and bail payments in the criminal justice system that
disproportionately impact the poor.” Issue Brief, December 2015. Accessed January 6, 2017. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.
gov/sites/default/files/page/files/1215_cea_fine_fee_bail_issue_brief.pdf.

5

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. “Report on Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2015.” Federal
Reserve, June 14, 2016. Accessed February 11, 2017. https://www.federalreserve.gov/2015-report-economic-well-being-us-

households-201605.pdf
6

“Jail” refers to the local detention facilities where people are incarcerated while awaiting trial, awaiting sentencing post-conviction,
awaiting transfer to another jurisdiction, or serving sentences of under a year. This is distinct from “prisons,” longer-term facilities run
by the state or the federal government that typically hold people with sentences of more than one year.

7

In contrast, the number of convicted people in jail had nearly returned to 2000 levels by 2014. Jail Inmates in 2015 (Table 3). U.S.
Department of Justice. December 2016. Available online: https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ji15.pdf. Minton, Todd D. and Zhen
Zenj, “Jail Inmates in 2015.” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. December 2016, NCJ
250394. Accessed February 11, 2017. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ji15.pdf.

8

Minton, Todd D. and Zhen Zenj, “Jail Inmates in 2015.” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice
Statistics. December 2016, NCJ 250394. Accessed February 11, 2017. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ji15.pdf.

9

“Payday loan” refers to a type of short-term borrowing where an individual borrows a small amount at a very high rate of interest. The
borrower typically writes a post-dated personal check in the amount they wish to borrow plus a fee in exchange for cash. The loans
often come due on the borrower’s subsequent payday.

10

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Accessed April 11, 2017.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/1567/what-payday-loan.html.

51

11

O’Hollaren, Kelsey. IBISWorld Industry Report. “Bail Bond Services in the US.” November 2016, pg 9, 26. Rutgers University. Accessed
January 6, 2017. https://www.ibisworld.com/industry/bail-bond-services.html

12

Hughes, Zerline and Adwoa Masozi. “Release: The Bail Bond Industry is for Profit, But Not For Good.” Justice Policy Institute,
September 18, 2012. Accessed February 11, 2017. http://www.justicepolicy.org/news/4389. Rabuy, Bernadette and Pete Wagner.

Endnotes

13

“Following the Money of Mass Incarceration.” Prison Policy Initiative, January 25, 2017. Accessed February 11, 2017. https://www.
prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html and O’Hollaren, Kelsey. IBISWorld Industry Report “Bail Bond Services in the US.” November
2016, Rutgers University. Accessed January 6, 2017. https://www.ibisworld.com/industry/bail-bond-services.html

14

The sources for most estimates are unclear, but the lower $1.4 billion is believed to be based on an assumption of 10 percent
premiums to the bail agents of the often-cited $14 billion in total bail (also estimated). Certain jurisdictions require disclosure of
premiums but are subject to various accounting rules, and fees do not appear to be included. Estimates do not appear to take into
account income made by the bail insurers from their portion of the revenue.

15

“For Better or for Profit: How the Bail Bonding Industry Stands in the Way of Fair and Effective Pretrial Justice.” Justice Policy
Institute, September 2012. Accessed February 11, 2017. http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/_for_
better_or_for_profit_.pdf and Brooker, Claire M., Michael R. Jones and Timothy R. Schnacke. “The History of Bail and Pretrial
Release.” Pretrial Justice Institute, September 24, 2010. Accessed February 11, 2017. http://pretrialnola.org/wp-content/
uploads/2015/09/09-24-2010-PJI-History-of-Bail.pdf.

16

Ibid.

17

“Chief Justice: Bail reform puts N.J. at the forefront of fairness.” NJ.com. January 9, 2017. Available online: http://www.nj.com/
opinion/index.ssf/2017/01/nj_chief_justice_bail_reform_puts_nj_at_the_forefr.html.

18

“City Council unanimously passes overhaul to Municipal Court bail system.” The New Orleans Advocate. January 12, 2017. Available
online: http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/courts/article_eb41d288-d90b-11e6-b99c-4bb3e5442d1b.html.

19

“Moving Beyond Money: A Primer on Bail Reform.” Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School. October 11, 2016. Accessed
January 6, 2017. http://cjpp.law.harvard.edu/publications/primer-bail-reform; “Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails
in America.” Vera Institute of Justice, February 2015. Accessed February 11, 2017. http://archive.vera.org/sites/default/files/
resources/downloads/incarcerations-front-door-report.pdf; and Jones, Michael R., “Unsecured Bonds: The As Effective and
Most Efficient Pretrial Release Option.” Pretrial Justice Institute. October 2013 http://www.pretrial.org/download/research/Unsec
ured+Bonds+The+As+Effective+and+Most+Efficient+Pretrial+Release+Option+-+Jones+2013.pdf.

20

Winny, Annalies. “Demorrea Tarver’s Charges Were Dropped, but the 10 Percent Fee He Promised a Bail Bondsman on His $275,000
Bail Has Him Drowning in Debt,” Baltimore City Paper, July 20, 2016, accessed January 9, 2017, http://www.citypaper.com/news/
mobtownbeat/bcp-072016-mob-bail-20160720-story.html.

21

“Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America.” Vera Institute of Justice, February 2015. Accessed February 11, 2017.
http://archive.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/incarcerations-front-door-report.pdf.

22

Wagner, Peter and Bernadette Rabuy. Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017. Prison Policy Initiative. March 14, 2017. Accessed April
10, 2017. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2017.html

23

This data set covers the felonies in the 75 largest counties. Reaves, Brian, Ph.D., U.S. State Court Processing Statistics, “Felony
Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2009-Statistical Tables.” Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice
Statistics. December 2013, NCJ 243777. Accessed February 11, 2017. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fdluc09.pdf.

24

Ibid.

25

Ibid.

52

Endnotes

26

Tafoya, Sonya, pub., PPIC, “Pretrial detention and jail capacity in California” 4 (2015). http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_quick.

asp?i=1154
27

Hughes, Zerline and Adwoa Masozi. “Release: The Bail Bond Industry is for Profit, But Not For Good.” Justice Policy Institute,
September 18, 2012. Accessed February 11, 2017. http://www.justicepolicy.org/news/4389.

28

Gupta, Arpit, Ethan Frenchman and Douglas Swanson. “The High Cost of Bail: How Maryland’s Reliance on Money Bail Jails the Poor
and Costs the Community Millions.” Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Justice Fairness and Dignity for All, November 2016, p. 4,
10-11. http://www.opd.state.md.us/Portals/0/Downloads/High%20Cost%20of%20Bail.pdf

29

Ibid.

30

Henrichson, Christian, Mathilde Laisne and Jon Wool. “Past Due: Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice
in New Orleans.” Vera Institute of Justice, January 2017. Accessed February 14, 2017. https://storage.googleapis.com/vera-web-

assets/downloads/Publications/past-due-costs-consequences-charging-for-justice-new-orleans/legacy_downloads/pastdue-costs-consequences-charging-for-justice-new-orleans.pdf.

53

31

Rabuy, Bernadette and Pete Wagner. “Following the Money of Mass Incarceration.” Prison Policy Initiative, January 25, 2017. Accessed
February 11, 2017. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html. and O’Hollaren, Kelsey. IBISWorld Industry Report “Bail Bond
Services in the US,” November 2016, Rutgers University. Accessed January 6, 2017.

32

This data set covers the felonies in the 75 largest counties. Reaves, Brian, Ph.D., U.S. State Court Processing Statistics, “Felony
Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2009-Statistical Tables.” Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice
Statistics. December 2013, NCJ 243777. Accessed February 11, 2017. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fdluc09.pdf.

33

Rabuy, Bernadette and Pete Wagner. “Following the Money of Mass Incarceration.” Prison Policy Initiative, January 25, 2017. Accessed
February 11, 2017. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html and O’Hollaren, Kelsey. IBISWorld Industry Report “Bail Bond
Services in the US,” November 2016, Rutgers University. Accessed January 6, 2017.

34

Immigration bail bonds, not discussed in this report, typically charge 15 percent to 20 percent.

35

Transcript of Injunction Hearing. O’Donnell et al v Harris County, Texas et al. U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, Case 4:16CV-1414, March 7, 2017, pp. 55-56 AboutBail.com. How Immigration Bail Bonds Work. https://www.aboutbail.com/pages/howimmigration-bail-bonds-work.

36

Family members who take on responsibility for a loved one’s bail are more accurately called “indemnitors.” That is, they are obligated
to pay when their loved one does not or cannot.

37

Some states still allow bail agents to post bonds backed by their own resources.

38

Liptak, Adam. “Illegal Globally, Bail for Profit Remains in U.S.” New York Times, January 29, 2008. Accessed February 11, 2017. http://
www.nytimes.com/2008/01/29/us/29bail.html?_r=1& and Johnson, Brian R. and Stevens, Ruth S., “The Regulation and Control of
Bail Recovery Agents: An Exploratory Study” (2013). Peer Reviewed Publications. 3. http://scholarworks.gvsu.edu/scjpeerpubs/3.

Endnotes

39

This data set covers the felonies in the 75 largest counties. Reaves, Brian, Ph.D., U.S. State Court Processing Statistics, “Felony
Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2009-Statistical Tables.” Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice
Statistics. December 2013, NCJ 243777. Accessed February 11, 2017. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fdluc09.pdf.
Grado, Gary. “Bail bond industry to fight change to ‘no money’ system.” Arizona Capitol Times, August 29, 2016. Accessed February
12, 2017. http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2016/08/29/bail-bond-industry-to-fight-change-to-no-money-system/.

40
Kopf, Daniel and Bernadette Rabuy, “Detaining the Poor: How money bail perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty and jail time.”
Prison Policy Initiative, May 10, 2016. Accessed February 12, 2017. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/incomejails.html.

41
“How Privatization Increases Inequality,” In the Public Interest, September 2016. Accessed January 9, 2017. https://www.
inthepublicinterest.org/wp-content/uploads/InthePublicInterest_InequalityReport_Sept2016.pdf.

42
43

44

Ibid. And Wooldredge, John. “Distinguishing Race Effects on Pre-Trial Release and Sentencing Decisions.” Justice Quarterly 29, no. 1
(February 2012): 41–75. Accessed via Taylor & Francis Online database on January 9, 2017. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.
1080/07418825.2011.559480.
Christopher T. Lowenkamp, Marie VanNostrand & Alexander Holsinger, “Investigating the Impact of Pretrial Detention on Sentencing
Outcomes” 10–11 (2013); Mary T. Philips, New York City Crim. Justice Agency, Inc., “Pretrial Detention and Case Outcomes, Part 1:
Nonfelony Cases” 25–29 (2007); Human Rights Watch and ACLU, “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use” 88
n.216 (2016) (discussing pressure to plead guilty while in pretrial detention among all defendants).
Powers, Thurston and Lauren Krisai. “Reforming the Constitution State’s Pre-Trial System.” March 8, 2016. Accessed January 9, 2017.
http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/policy-briefs/reforming-constitution-state-pre-trial-system/.

45
Ibid.

46

Burns, Cheryl, “A Message from the President,” BailUSA. Accessed April 4, 2017. http://bailusa.net/aquired-news.php.

47

Based on the estimation of insurer premiums of 1 percent of total bond. (10 percent of a 10 percent bail bond premium charged by an
agent).

48
49

50

51

“Agency Agreement between A Alpha Bail Bonds and Bankers Insurance Group,” as Exhibit 10 to Form S-1, Amendment 1, Registration
Statement of Twentyfour/Seven ventures, inc. April 26, 2013. Accessed February 15, 2017. https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/
data/1565700/000101489713000144/exhibit10.htm.
Top 100 Writers of Surety Bonds United States & Territories, Canada & Aggregate Other Alien. n.p.: The Surety & Fidelity Association
of America, 2015. http://www.surety.org/?page=StatReports#Top100 and “Agency Agreement between A Alpha Bail Bonds and
Bankers Insurance Group,” as Exhibit 10 to Form S-1, Amendment 1, Registration Statement of Twentyfour/Seven Ventures, Inc. April
26, 2013. Accessed February 15, 2017. https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1565700/000101489713000144/exhibit10.
htm.
Allegheny Casualty Company, International Fidelity Insurance Company. “Management Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition
and Results of Operations,” for the year ending December 31, 2015. March 23, 2016. Accessed February 15, 2017. https://interactive.
web.insurance.ca.gov/sdrive/companyprofile/2015/propertyAndCasualty/annual/13285.2015.P.AN.PM.O.A.3107706.pdf.
Bauer, Shane. “Inside the Wild, Shadowy, and Highly Lucrative Bail Industry.” May/June 2014. Accessed January 7, 2017. http://www.
motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/bail-bond-prison-industry.

52

54

Endnotes

Downs, Lamar. Examination Report of Continental Heritage Insurance Company Boca Raton, Florida. Florida Office of Insurance
Regulation, 2014, pg. 4. http://www.floir.com/siteDocuments/ContinentalHeritage12312014.pdf.

53
Lexington National Insurance Corporation, 2015 Annual Report, Dec. 31, 2015, accessed from California Department of Insurance.

54
55

After Pennsylvania ordered a bail company to pay forfeiture when an individual out on bond committed murder, the main bail insurer
association, the American Bail Coalition, supported litigation and made sure a new law guaranteed that the bail industry wouldn’t
ever have to pay in those situations again. First the bail industry took the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where it lost.
In October 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrote, “The express language of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure
concerning bail, bail bonds, and forfeiture do not limit the availability of forfeiture exclusively to abscondment cases; indeed, the rules
permit forfeiture for any breach of a bail condition.” But the American Bail Coalition, led by then-Executive Director and Pennsylvania
resident Nick Wachinski, was already in the middle of a five-year effort to pass Pennsylvania’s Act 16 of 2015, which locked in the role
of insurers in the state’s bail system. Wachinski testified before the legislature and donated nearly $7,000 to a lead sponsor, while
the industry overall donated nearly $50,000 over the 2010 to 2016 cycles. By the time the final 2015 Pennsylvania law was passed,
a new provision was added explicitly to remove the chance that a bail bond company would pay for new crimes committed: “No
third-party surety shall be responsible to render payment on a forfeited undertaking if the revocation of bail is sought for failure
of the defendant to comply with the conditions of the defendant’s release other than appearance.” So in addition to guaranteeing
bail insurers’ position to earn a cut of all bail premiums, lawmakers helped the industry to successfully eliminate one of the already
limited avenues their own state government had for holding it accountable. See Testimony of Nicholas J. Wachinski, Esquire Executive
Director, American Bail Coalition. Regarding Senate Bill 1441, Committee on Banking and Insurance, September 23, 2014. Accessed
February 14, 2017. http://banking.pasenategop.com/files/2014/09/Wachinski-PA-SB-1441-NJW-Testimony.pdf. Kitchen,
Sean. “How Pennsylvania’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor & An ALEC Lobbyist Deregulated the Bail Bond Industry.” Raging
Chicken Press, January 20, 2016. Accessed February 16, 2017. https://ragingchickenpress.org/2016/01/20/how-pennsylvaniasdemocratic-lieutenant-governor-an-alec-lobbyist-deregulated-the-bail-bond-industry/.
“ABA Standards for Criminal Justice, Third Edition, Pretrial Release.” American Bar Association, March 2007. Accessed January 9, 2017.
http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/criminal_justice_standards/pretrial_release.authcheckdam.pdf.

56
Henterly, Lael. “When Bail Is Set, the Rich Walk and the Poor Go to Jail.” Seattle Weekly Times, August 23, 2016. Accessed January 6,
2017. http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/when-bail-is-set-the-rich-walk-and-the-poor-go-to-jail/.

57
“Since Sandra.” The Huffington Post database. July 2016. Available online: http://data.huffingtonpost.com/2016/jail-deaths.

58

Pinkerton, James and Lauren Caruba. “Jailhouse Jeopardy: Making bail not same for everyone.” Houston Chronicle. December 27,
2015. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Tough-bail-policies-punish-the-poor-and-

59

the-sick-6721984.php
On Life Support: Public Health in the Age of Mass Incarceration (2014). Vera Institute of Justice. Available online: http://archive.vera.

60

org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/on-life-support-public-health-mass-incarceration-report.pdf
http://data.huffingtonpost.com/2016/jail-deaths.
The Reality of Pre-Trial Detention: Colorado Jail Stories (2015). Colorado Criminal Defense Institute. Available online: https://

61

community.pretrial.org/HigherLogic/System/DownloadDocumentFile.ashx?DocumentFileKey=8bc816ea-9264-caa3-7e49acfaed7d0789&forceDialog=0.
Ibid.

55

Endnotes

62

The Price of Jails: Measuring the Taxpayer Cost of Local Incarceration. Vera Institute. (May 2015) Available online: https://storage.

63

googleapis.com/vera-web-assets/downloads/Publications/the-price-of-jails-measuring-the-taxpayer-cost-of-localincarceration/legacy_downloads/price-of-jails.pdf.
San Joaquin County Courts Surety Bond Reports and correspondence, obtained by public records request.

64
65

Gupta, Arpit, Ethan Frenchman and Douglas Swanson. “The High Cost of Bail: How Maryland’s Reliance on Money Bail Jails the Poor
and Costs the Community Millions.” Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Justice Fairness and Dignity for All, November 2016, p. 4,
10-11. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://www.opd.state.md.us/Portals/0/Downloads/High%20Cost%20of%20Bail.pdf
Lewis, Sukey. “$2 Billion Bail Bond Industry Threatened by Lawsuit Against San Francisco.” May 6, 2016. Accessed January 9, 2017.
https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2016/05/03/2-billion-bail-bond-industry-threatened-by-lawsuit-against-san-francisco/.

66
Kim, Anne. “Baltimore’s Cash Bail System Traps Thousands, Propelling the Poor Deeper into Poverty.” December 7, 2016. Accessed
January 9, 2017. http://www.citypaper.com/news/features/bcp-120716-feature-bail-20161207-story.html.

67
Bonta, Rob. “California’s Broken Bail System Punishes the Poor.” August 22, 2016. Accessed January 9, 2017. http://www.sacbee.com/
opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article97214457.html.

68
69

Gupta, Arpit, Ethan Frenchman and Douglas Swanson. “The High Cost of Bail: How Maryland’s Reliance on Money Bail Jails the Poor
and Costs the Community Millions.” Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Justice Fairness and Dignity for All, November 2016, p. 4,
10-11. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://www.opd.state.md.us/Portals/0/Downloads/High%20Cost%20of%20Bail.pdf.
Henrichson, Christian, Mathilde Laisne and Jon Wool. “Past Due: Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice
in New Orleans.” Vera Institute of Justice, January 2017. Accessed February 14, 2017. https://storage.googleapis.com/vera-web-

70

71

72

assets/downloads/Publications/past-due-costs-consequences-charging-for-justice-new-orleans/legacy_downloads/pastdue-costs-consequences-charging-for-justice-new-orleans.pdf.
Zambito, Thomas. “N.J. defendants are set free on bail payment plans without judges, prosecutors knowing.” NJ.com. December 1,
2013. Accessed January 13, 2017. http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2013/12/nj_defendants_being_set_free_on_bail_payment_
plans_without_judges_prosecutors_knowing.html.
“Bounty hunters” is the common term for bail enforcement agents or the industry-preferred term “fugitive recovery agent.” According
to their trade association, the National Association of Fugitive Recovery Agents, these individuals are “hired or contracted by a Bail
Bond Company or Surety to act as their Agent for the purpose of locating and apprehending a Fugitive that has failed to appear in
court or has otherwise violated the Bail Bond Contract or Release Conditions.” See more at www.fugitive-recovery.org.
Sheets, Tess. “Woman Sues Bondsman Who Shot Her in McDonald’s Drive-Thru.” Tampa Bay Times. April 4, 2016. Accessed January
13, 2017. http://www.tbo.com/news/crime/woman-sues-bondsman-who-shot-her-in-mcdonalds-drive-thru-20160404/.

73
Labe, L. Jay and Jerry Watson. “Commercial Bail Bonds.” Accessed January 13, 2017. http://www.americanbailcoalition.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/01/ABA-Bail-Chapter-Commercial-Bail-Bonds.pdf.

74
New York Department of Financial Services. Bailbonds Active Agent Listing. Accessed February 14, 2017. https://myportal.dfs.
ny.gov/web/guest-applications/bail-bonds-search.

75
State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation. “Inside Out: Questionable and Abusive Practices in New Jersey’s Bail-Bond
Industry.” Pg. 1, 2014. Accessed on January 9, 2017. http://www.nj.gov/sci/pdf/BailReportSmall.pdf.

56

Endnotes

76
Minnesota Department of Commerce. “Minnesota Commerce Department Reaches Sweeping Agreement to Reform State’s Bail Bond
Industry.” January 13, 2016. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://mn.gov/commerce/media/news/?id=17-114183.

77
California Department of Insurance. “AB 2449 by Assembly Member Eggman, Bail Education, Investigation, and Prosecution Fund;
California Department of Insurance Fact Sheet.” Undated.

78
79

80

Letter from Commissioner Jones to Assembly Member Tom Daly, re: CDI Sponsored Assembly Bill 2449 (Eggman) - Support. April 13,
2016. California Department of Insurance. “Investigation Division & Customer Services Division Statewide Bail Cases and Complaints.”
Undated.
California Department of Insurance. Update: South Bay bail agents targeted in law enforcement sweep, 2015 Press Release.
September 9, 2015. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0400-news/0100-press-releases/2015/
release083-15.cfm and Operation Bail Out: Bay Area Bail Bonds Operation. “Operation Bail Out” graphic. August 29, 2015. https://
www.flickr.com/photos/ca_dept_insurance/20800521029/in/album-72157657509991139/.
Schnacke, Tim, “Best Practices in Bond Setting: Colorado’s New Pretrial Bail Law.” Center for Legal and Evidence Based Practices. July
3, 2013. https://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/ccjj/Resources/Ref/2013-07-03_BondSetting-ColoradoCCJJ.pdf.

81
82

Timms, Ed and Kevin Krause. “Smaller Texas Counties Struggle with Bail Bond Regulation | News.” December 28, 2011. Accessed
January 13, 2017. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/news/2011/12/28/smaller-texas-counties-struggle-with-bail-bondregulation.
American Bail Coalition. Newsletter October 2010, pp. 13-14. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://www.asc-usi.com/blogentry.

83

aspx?id=4382&category%20%20AW%20needs%20to%20cite%20to%20examples%20of%20them%20making%20
these%20claims,%20but.
Grado, Gary. “Bail bond industry to fight change to ‘no money’ system.” Arizona Capitol Times, August 29, 2016. Accessed February
12, 2017. http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2016/08/29/bail-bond-industry-to-fight-change-to-no-money-system/.

84
85

Brief for Amici Curiae American Bail Coalition, Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen, and Georgia Sheriff’s Association,
Maurice Walker v. City of Calhoun, U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, Case No. 16-10521. Filed June 21, 2016, available at http://www.
americanbailcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/abcgapbbailamicus.pdf.
American Bail Coalition. Newsletter October 2010, pp. 13-14. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://www.asc-usi.com/blogentry.

86

aspx?id=4382&category%20%20AW%20needs%20to%20cite%20to%20examples%20of%20them%20making%20
these%20claims,%20but.
“About,” American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Accessed April 4, 2017. https://www.alec.org/about/ and “ALEC Exposed.”
Accessed January 13, 2017. http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed.

87
“Private Enterprise Advisory Council,” American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Accessed December 15, 2016. https://www.
alec.org/group/private-enterprise-advisory-council-2/. Accessed December 15, 2016.

88
89

57

“Bail Bond Industry Leader, Jerry Watson, Honored by National Legislative Organization.” August 27, 2010. Accessed January 13, 2017.
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/08/prweb4434154.htm. ABC Executive Director Emeritus Dennis Bartlett and former
Legal Director Jerry Watson have also had leadership positions, and Watson received the ALEC Leadership Award in 2010.

Endnotes

American Bail Coalition Announces Appointment Of Executive Director To Chairman Of American City And County Exchange,
8/6/2014, American Bail Coalition. http://www.americanbailcoalition.org/in-the-news/american-bail-coalition-announces-

90

executive-director-policy-director-appointments/
American Bail Coalition. Newsletter October 2010, pp. 13-14. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://www.asc-usi.com/blogentry.

91

aspx?id=4382&category%20%20AW%20needs%20to%20cite%20to%20examples%20of%20them%20making%20
these%20claims,%20but.
“The Truth About Commercial Bail Bonding In America Advocacy Brief.” The National Association Of Pretrial Services Agencies, n.d.,
Accessed February 14, 2017. http://www.pretrial.org/download/pji-reports/Facts%20and%20Positions%201.pdf.

92
Doyle, Sue. “ALEC and Private-Sector Bail Bonding.” Allegheny Casualty International Fidelity Associated Bond, Bail Bond Blog. March
23, 2009. Accessed February 14, 2017. https://www.aiasurety.com/bail-bond-blog/alec-private-sector-bail-bonding/.

93
Santo, Alysia. “When Freedom Isn’t Free.” March/April/May 2015. Accessed January 7, 2017. http://washingtonmonthly.com/
magazine/maraprmay-2015/when-freedom-isnt-free/.

94
95

Unless otherwise specified, state political donations data was obtained from the National Institute on Money in State Politics’ Follow
the Money Database by searching for donations to candidates, parties, or committees coded by NIMSP as Bail Bond Industry for the
election cycles from 2010 to 2016, along with searches for the bail insurers that are primarily or exclusively bail. Insurance companies
with significant other business were omitted unless donations were directly tied to a bail subsidiary. Given variation in self-reported
data, naming variation (not all bail companies are readily identifiable by name), and the lack of a comprehensive list of bail agents—
who may contribute as individuals—and companies, this approach is conservative.
Billings, Thanithia. “Private Interest, Public Sphere: Eliminating the Use of Commercial Bail Bondsmen in the Criminal Justice
System.” Boston College Law Review Vol. 57:1337. Available online: http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.

96

cgi?article=3527&context=bclr.
Asher, James. “How the Bail Industry (Successfully) Flexes Its Political Muscles.” The Crime Report, December 27, 2016. Accessed
February 15, 2017. http://thecrimereport.org/2016/12/27/how-the-bail-industry-successfully-flexes-its-political-muscles/

97

http://www.injusticewatch.org/news/2016/bail-bondsmens-political-muscle-working-overtime-against-reform-efforts/
Altimari, Daniela. “Battle Brewing Over Bail Reform at the Legislature.” Hartford Courant. March 10, 2015. Available online: http://
www.courant.com/politics/hc-bail-reform-connecticut-20160309-story.html.

98
Lamb, Jonah Owen. “Bail Bond Businesses in a Slump.” June 30, 2016. Accessed January 9, 2017. http://www.sfexaminer.com/bailbond-businesses-slump/.

99
Cal-Access. Californians Against Prop. 47, Sponsored By California Public Safety Institute And Peace Officers Research Association
Of California Pic. Historical, 01/22/2015. Accessed January 9, 2017. http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.

100

aspx?id=1368083&session=2013&view=general.

101

Wadsworth, Jennifer. “County Overhauls Profit-Based Bail System; Bondsmen Found to Have Withheld Millions in Fees.” November
3, 2016. Accessed January 13, 2017. http://www.sanjoseinside.com/2016/11/03/county-overhauls-profit-based-bail-systembondsmen-found-to-have-withheld-millions-in-fees/.
California Secretary of State. California Filings Searchable Database. http://dbsearch.sos.ca.gov/

58

Endnotes

102
103

104

105

Professional Bail Agents of the United States. “Message from the President Beth Chapman.” PBUS Website, April 21, 2016. Accessed
February 14, 2017. http://www.multibriefs.com/briefs/PBUS/PBUS042116.php and Professional Bail Agents of the United States.
“Message from the President Beth Chapman.” PBUS Website, March 24, 2016. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://multibriefs.com/
briefs/PBUS/PBUS032416.php.
Duncan, Ian. “Top District Court Judge Points to Power of Bail Bonds Lobby in Debate over Reform.” January 23, 2014. Accessed
January 13, 2017. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bal-top-district-court-judge-calls-out-bail-bondslobby-in-debate-over-reform-20140123-story.html.
The Abell Foundation. Publications Library: Publications List. Accessed April 5, 2017. http://www.abell.org/search/
site?f[0]=bundle%3Apublication&pagetitle=Publication%20List&searchMode=publication and Maryland Governor’s Office
of Crime Control and Prevention. Governor’s Commission to Reform Maryland’s Pretrial System, May 27, 2014. Accessed April 5, 2017.
http://goccp.maryland.gov/pretrial/ and http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/26excom/defunct/html/31r.
Koenig, Sarah. “Bail laws fight loom.” The Baltimore Sun, October 30, 2001. Accessed Feb. 14, 2017. http://articles.baltimoresun.
com/2001-10-30/news/0110300003_1_bail-bond-industry-maryland-bail-bondsmen.

106
107

Hunter, Jonathan. “The Topic of Cash Bail Reform Will Be Considered by Maryland’s Highest Court.” November 22, 2016. Accessed
January 7, 2017. http://www.your4state.com/news/maryland/the-topic-of-cash-bail-reform-will-be-considered-bymarylands-highest-court/611693541.
Pay to Play? How Special Interests Seek Influence in Annapolis; A Common Cause Maryland “Follow the Money” Report, January 2017,
http://www.commoncause.org/states/maryland/research-and-reports/pay-to-play.html.

108
Prince, Zenitha. “Holder Urges Md. Bail Reform.” Afro, January 11, 2017. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://afro.com/holder-urgesmd-bail-reform/.

109
Pay to Play? How Special Interests Seek Influence in Annapolis; A Common Cause Maryland “Follow the Money” Report, January 2017,
http://www.commoncause.org/states/maryland/research-and-reports/pay-to-play.html.

110
111

Dresser, Michael. “Maryland bail bond industry’s contributions hang over contested bill.” The Baltimore Sun, March 25, 2017. Accessed
April 4, 2017. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/sun-investigates/bs-md-sun-investigates-bail-20170325-story.
html.

112

Federal contributions are from the Federal Election Commission Individual Contribution data set and Committee Master file covering
2011 through October 11, 2016 [retrieved November 28, 2016]. Records were identified searching for key terms “bail,” “bond,” “surety,”
and “casualty,” as well as certain additional company names. Data was reviewed to eliminate extraneous and unrelated entries.
114th Congress, 2d Session. “S 3541.” Accessed April 4, 2017. https://www.congress.gov/114/bills/s3541/BILLS-114s3541is.pdf and
114th Congress, 2d Session H.R. 6061. Accessed April 4, 2017. https://www.congress.gov/114/bills/hr6016/BILLS-114hr6016ih.pdf.

113
114

59

United States Representative Ted Lieu. “Congressman Ted W. Lieu Introduces The ‘No Money Bail Act 2016.’” February 24, 2016.
Accessed February 14, 2017. https://lieu.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congressman-ted-w-lieu-introduces-nomoney-bail-act-2016-0 and U.S. Congressman Ted Poe, Second District-Texas, Press Releases: Congressman Poe Introduces Bill
to Bring Accountability to Federally Funded Bail Programs, September 13, 2016. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://poe.house.
gov/2016/9/congressman-poe-introduces-bill-to-bring-accountabilty-to-federally-funded-bail-programs and Congress.
gov. Accessed February 14, 2017.

Endnotes

115

“Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America.” Vera Institute of Justice, February 2015. Accessed February 11, 2017.
http://archive.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/incarcerations-front-door-report.pdf.
See also Jones, Michael R., “Unsecured Bonds: The As Effective and Most Efficient Pretrial Release Option.” Pretrial Justice Institute.
October 2013. http://www.pretrial.org/download/research/Unsecured+Bonds,+The+As+Effective+and+Most+Efficient+Pre
trial+Release+Option+-+Jones+2013.pdf.

116

See Oregon Knowledge Bank, http://okb.oregon.gov/portfolio-item/auto-notification/ accessed April 11, 2017 for more examples
and studies. Henterly, Lael. “When Bail Is Set, the Rich Walk and the Poor Go to Jail.” Seattle Weekly Times, August 23, 2016. Accessed
January 6, 2017. http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/when-bail-is-set-the-rich-walk-and-the-poor-go-to-jail/.

117

“For Better or for Profit: How the Bail Bonding Industry Stands in the Way of Fair and Effective Pretrial Justice.” Justice Policy
Institute, September 2012. Accessed February 11, 2017. http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/_for_better_or_
for_profit_.pdf

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