The first thing most people think about when they hear the phrase “Get out of jail free” is the game of Monopoly. But unfortunately, that fond childhood memory and association is being replaced by the inadequacies of government sponsored pretrial release programs. I recently read a great article (click here to read the article) by Dr. David Muhlhausen of the Heritage Foundation, discussing how Pretrial Service Agencies are able to tap into the $357 million provided through the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program.
These grants are also tapped into by local police departments. As you would expect, these local police departments are required to provide documentation around annual performance measures describing how their programs are doing. Just as any business would operate, you invest money in a product or a division, you track performance and then make a determination of how to improve the product or process or discontinue it. So far so good, right? Well, here comes the kicker. Unlike the accountability and tracking required by local police departments, Pretrial Service Agencies have no requirement for reporting performance results. Yep, that is what I said, go ahead and read that last sentence a second and a third time. PRETRIAL SERVICE AGENCIES ARE NOT REQUIRED TO REPORT PERFORMANCE RESULTS. Almost makes you want to go out and start a pretrial service office doesn’t it?
In a time of economic depression (oh I’m sorry, I mean recession) across the country and what seems to be a never ending cycle of joblessness, how can our tax dollars be distributed so carelessly with no accountability? How can our elected officials continue to support an entity that doesn’t report results because those results would be so poor that they would look even more foolish than they already do? How can our state and local governments continue to support a government entity that substantially underperforms compared to a more efficient, effective and proven private sector approach (commercial bail)? These are questions that continue to baffle me and everyone I know both in and outside the bail bond profession.
While we continue to be amazed by the ineptitude of the thinking (or lack of it all together) that goes into these programs, there is a ray of hope on the horizon. Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) has sponsored a bill that would require Pretrial Service Agencies that receive any federal taxpayer funding to report their results. These are outlined specifically in the Muhlhausen article. I hope you join us in supporting this new Act (HR 1885) and encourage your own state representatives to do the same.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.