Associations play an important role in preserving the growing community of bail bondsmen, pushing for and fighting legislation changes and rallying support from community leaders. With an established national association, several state associations and others getting ready to form, bondsmen have a number of opportunities to team up and get involved in their professional associations. As bail bondsman associations play an important role in the industry, it’s important for bail agents to understand their individual roles and how they can help.
CEO and Executive Director of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States (PBUS) Melanie Ledgerwood stresses the importance of networking and joining together in the bail community. “[Members of PBUS have] an opportunity to network with their colleagues across the nation,” she explains. “With the bail industry under increasing attack from tax-payer based programs, it’s important that we present a unified voice when promoting the bail industry.” Ledgerwood also expressed the growing need for individual bondsmen and associations to understand what is happening in the bail industry within each state. AboutBail sat down with a number of professionals at the 2012 PBUS Conference in Las Vegas, and it’s apparent that state association leaders and professional bondsmen agree.
Here’s what association leaders have to say:
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“In unity we stand,” New York bondsman George Zouvelos noted. Zouvelos, who is the president of the New York State Professional Bondsman Association (NYPBA), describes PBUS as the father entity, and explained that when local bondsmen and state associations work together it creates a stronger industry. “I think that if each state can have a strong association, the larger association is only as strong as its membership,” he said.
Zouvelos explained that his association works hard to ensure that the NYPBA is aware of what’s going on in every area of New York. “We travel all the way from Buffalo all the way out to Montuak,” he explained. “What’s important is that we travel from county to county and we gather the intelligence and pulse of each legislature and also the bondsmen that are on the ground there.” With an accurate picture of what is going on across the state, Zouvelos says his association then tries to push the legislature into seeing issues from the view of the affected bondsmen. “When we aggregate this kind of information and we also share it with press releases and things of that nature, we’re able to change the minds of even judges and other decision makers which are crucial [to the criminal justice process].”
Zouvelos notes that sharing this information with other national and state associations helps bondsmen stay alert of different programs and tactics. “I think you get an accurate picture when you have a good, strong association,” he said, “and we return to PBUS and say, ‘they’re doing the same thing, in fact, they’re doing something else–you should look after that in your neighborhood.’” Describing it as a domino effect, strategies used against private bail and especially for pre-trial release are tried in one area and inevitably will spread to other states. “There’s certain tactics tried in one part of the country that haven’t yet been tried in another part of the country,” he began, “and where best to share that information than at a national association.”
Expanding on the importance of bail agents being vocal in their communities, former president of the Golden State Bail Association Topo Padilla noted the importance of joining together as association members. “If you’re a professional in this industry, you should be a member of one of the [state] bail associations, and on a national level you should be a member of PBUS,” he explains. Padilla notes that through lobbyists, executive directors and releasing industry news to a variety of sources, bail associations work toward raising awareness of the positive aspects of private bail. He also noted the financial cost and support needed from individuals in order to achieve success in an association. In discussing ways to get involved, Padilla encourages bail agents to join associations, committees and boards or to help associations financially. He also hopes that bail bondsmen will keep up to date with industry news and publications. “The reason the bail industry is so ineffective is because we can’t get more people involved,” he explained.
Association leaders across the country agree that the more active bail bondsmen become in associations the more effective the industry will be. Padilla concluded his interview stressing the core purpose of associations saying, “What [bail agents] need to realize is this: when you have an association, that association is there to act as your voice.” As no-bail states reconsider their bail structure, pre-trial release continues to gain support and bail bondsmen work to grow their businesses, associations will remain a strong element in improving the bail industry. Get involved in your state and national association today!