Criminal Law

Crim. Law Journal Spring/Summer 2020, Vol. 20, Issue 2

THE TALE OF FOR-PROFIT COMMERCIAL BAIL AND HOW IT HAS GONE STALE

By Alison Zoltowski*

I. INTRODUCTION

The commercial bail bond industry is analogous to free pizza days at Planet Fitness. It’s convenient for those involved, but at the heart of both practices lies something far more sinister. Pizza days are undoubtedly an anticipated perk for gym-goers; but the perk only complicates the situation. Why aren’t healthier snacks offered? The commercial bail bond industry—at first glance—also appears to be a benefit. You pay and then you’re released. But in actuality, it causes a plethora of complications for those entwined in the criminal-justice system.

The United States is plagued with mass incarceration—there are approximately 2.3 million people behind bars.1 Seventy percent of them are awaiting trial.2 This stems from the current cash-bail system—courts set cash bail without considering defendants’ financial positions. It pampers the rich and punishes the poor. The commercial bail bond industry supports and endorses this system. The more defendants unable to post bail means that more commercial bail bonds will be sought—this results in more profit. There is urgency for extensive bail reform and the first step should be abolishing the $2.3 billion commercial bail bond industry.3

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