This post is an entry for our $25,000 scholarship contest. The post was created by James Yarsky and may not always reflect the views of JW Surety Bonds.
People get arrested. Sometimes, people you know get arrested. Maybe even, you get arrested. Others live their entire lives without incident and are never on the business end of a policeman.
When one is arrested, innocence or guilt becomes a mechanical thing. Professionals leap into action in order to make determinations as to whether or not you should have been arrested in the first place. Now, for the most part, your voice is irrelevant – a professional told you so. The machine begins its work and you are lost and you do not know what the machine will do next.
One does a lot of waiting. One does a lot of posing. One does a lot of thinking. The machine brings you papers. You need backup. You need your friends or your family. You need to make bail. Now.
Now is what bail bond agencies and agents are all about. People get arrested at all hours of the day and night. The machine makes room for this possibility. Our constitution makes provisions for the newly arrested. Families seek bail bond agencies from search engines or references. The bail bond agent answers the call. The family needs their help. Now. Can they help?
Yes. It is a financial and good faith agreement for sure, but the answer is yes.
The bail bond agency uses metrics to determine risk. Legal, personal, demographic and experiential evidence is weighed to gauge whether or not the potential client will honor his debt and be present for court. Bail bond agencies use data from sources like biennial State Court Processing Statistics, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics in order to make their determinations. All the while, the bail bond agency must remember that the statistics and metrics they study inevitably lead to a profound choice on their part for a human being who is in dire straits.
Lives are at stake. Studies cited in a New York Times article entitled “Panel Proposes Changes to New Jersey Bail System” claims that, “…people who are held while awaiting trial are more likely to plead guilty, be convicted, and receive harsher prison sentences than defendants who are released pending trial (Zernike).” The machine is powerful. It is smart, humorless and it is often in a hurry because there are so many others in line to be processed. Everyone has advice for those who are incarcerated. Lawyers, policemen, guards, and friends may have good intentions when offering advice but when one is looking at bars, one is, most likely, not one’s self. With the stroke of a pen, the machine may convince one that a deal is better than an abstract legal alternative. Looking at the bars makes one desperate. Bars are heavy and dark. The weight of bars may take one out of his or her rational self.
Bail offers one light. Literally. Light is vital whether one is guilty or innocent. Light gives one his or her rational self back. Bail bond agencies are in the business of restoring light to desperate situations. Bail bond agents understand this. That is why they answer the phone at 3 a.m.
A voice on the other end of the phone at 3 a.m. is a good beginning. One offers the details of one’s strange situation over to a person who has heard similar stories many times. The voice on the other end of the phone is professional. He or she gives one details about the process and what they can expect once the process begins. A small, good thing in a time of deep confusion. It is indeed valuable.
Yet bail is elusive to some people, especially poor people. Some non-profit organizations have identified how vital bail is, so they created mechanisms of posting bail for people who otherwise would not be able to make the financial commitment. Their work helped the bail bond agencies shed light on people who may have signed a very weighty piece of paper under the duress of the bars (Turkewitz).
We are a nation of transactions. We exchange money for food, water, heat, clothes, health, and legal representation. One would be hard-pressed to think of a more important transaction than posting bail with the aid of a bail bond agency when one is in a dark room full of strangers. Jail is not a good place to make life decisions. One needs his or her loved ones, time, professionals, and the light of day to weigh everything soberly and with sound foresight.
We are indeed fortunate that men and women decide to fulfill this calling.
Turkewitz, Julie. (January 22, 2014). Helping Poor Defendants Post Bail in Backlogged Bronx. The New York Times. N.Y. Region
Zernike, Kate. (March 20, 2014). Panel Proposes Changes to New Jersey Bail System. The New York Times N.Y. Region.