Meet the “Poster Children” for Bail Reform

Bail Reform Advocates Unveil Website Highlighting Repeated Abuses by Agents of California’s Out-of-Control Money Bail Industry

(From Press Release) – Bail Reform California, a coalition of organizations advocating for reforms to the state’s unjust and unsafe money bail system, unveiled a website today highlighting abuses committed by agents of the state’s for-profit bail industry and called on lawmakers to pass bail reform.

“For far too long, California’s broken money bail system has enabled a bail industry and bail bondsmen and bounty hunters that play by their own rules and mistreat Californians all in pursuit of a buck,” said Natasha Minsker, the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy & Policy director and member of the Bail Reform California coalition. “It’s time to shine a light on California’s broken money bail system. These profiles of abuse make clear that the status quo is not working and is not keeping us safe.”

The site highlights abuses committed by bondsmen and bounty hunters in California, including:

  • A Riverside County bounty hunter with a knack for busting down doors – in some cases at the wrong locations.
  • A pair of bounty hunter twin sisters based in San Diego County who were drummed out of the LAPD prior to becoming some of the loudest advocates for the state’s broken money bail system.
  • A Sacramento bail bonds agent who accepted stolen assault weapons in exchange for providing bail.

While the bail industry purports to provide California with a public safety service, their actions and disreputable business practices reflect a much starker and shocking reality. The site makes the case that these bondsmen and bounty hunters demonstrate the need to pass SB 10 (Hertzberg) to reform California’s bail system.

California’s top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court both agree that it is necessary to reform our state’s bail system in favor of a system that prioritizes public safety instead a person’s bank account balance.

Under the current money bail system, low-income Californians who are unable to afford bail and face dire circumstances often resort to paying a bail bond agent a non-refundable 10% fee based on their total bail amount to get back to their families sooner.

“The bail industry traps families already struggling to make ends meet with these nonrefundable fees and installment plans, rigging contracts that coerce people to forfeit their rights, regardless of whether the defendant is found innocent or the charges are dropped,” said Natasha Minsker. “Bondsmen and bounty hunters take advantage of this system by preying on these families without making any of us safer.”

For example, in just 5 months of 2016, nearly 200 people in San Joaquin County paid for-profit bail companies to be freed from jail where no case was even filed and the charges were dropped. In San Francisco, the bail industry strips $15 million a year from city residents in non-refundable fees, more than $9 million of that coming from black and Latino families.

“Consensus is building to reform California’s unjust and unsafe money bail system. The bail bonds industry is determined to keep playing by its own rules and keep the broken system in place,” said Natasha Minsker. “We call on lawmakers to pass SB 10 and protect Californians, not the bail industry’s bottom line.”

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