NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 20, 2019) – As Tennessee lawmakers consider legislation that will eliminate the state’s longtime bail bond industry, members of the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents are defending the merits of the current system.
The proposed legislation “creates a rebuttable presumption that a person charged with a bailable offense will not violate the conditions of their release if the offense is often expungable and the person has not been previously convicted of an offense that is ineligible for expunction,” according to the Tennessee General Assembly.
The Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents says the misinformation surrounding pre-trial release through unsecured bonds could lead to a dangerous, expensive and irreversible mistake for the state. Even if a defendant has previously been convicted of a felony failure to appear, or has failed to appear on related charges, he or she would still be entitled to this presumption and given an unsecured and unsupervised release.
“Supporters of the legislation are misled in the belief that the creation of a government-operated system would reduce the number of individuals incarcerated before his or her trial, particularly offenders who are unable to post bail. The reason why any person is in jail is not because he or she is poor, but because he or she is accused of a crime based on probable cause determined by a law enforcement officer,” said J.R. Henderson, president of the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents.
Though the legislation is said to decrease the amount of time a defendant is incarcerated, the statewide association says adopting a taxpayer-funded pre-trial release system may actually increase jail time. At present, the Tennessee bail bond industry operates around the clock and judges are required to review defendants’ bail within two days of incarceration.
“If the system changes, judges will no longer be required to review cases within such a short amount of time,” said Henderson. “In addition, there is palpable evidence that disputes the success of unsecured pre-trial release.”
Researchers at the University of Tampa recently analyzed over 9,000 cases in the state of Florida. Less than 2% of all inmates were detained for a prolonged period due to indigence. Over the course of three years, unsecured pre-trial release cost the state $95 million. Secured pre-trial release, executed by professional bail agents, cost the state nothing.
Meanwhile, in Missouri, a liberal foundation granted funds for the state to create a robust pre-trial release program with the goal of reducing jail overcrowding and eliminating racial disparities. In the first year, the pre-trial jail population rose 21%. In all, the failed experiment cost St. Louis taxpayers $1.62 million. In California, New Jersey and New York, bail reform has cost the states over $1 billion, $500 million and $200 million, respectively.
“Tennessee has the valuable opportunity to learn from the costly mistakes other states have made. Having friends and family post bond is the best way to ensure the defendant’s return to court to take ownership of his or her actions,” said Henderson.
The proposed legislation, HB1131, is currently being reviewed by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
To learn more about Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents, please visit https://www.tapba.org/.
About Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents
Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents advances the profession of bail bonding through proactive leadership, education and advocacy by working together. Tennessee’s professional bonding agents work as officers of the court to ensure the victim’s day in court.