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With the California jail system being overloaded, many are debating whether or not the current bail system is working.  California's elected officials are facing a $26-billion budget gap and according to Jail Resources, a half a million people nationwide are unable to post bail for the reason being that they just do not have the financial means. However, the bail system is what holds people accountable for showing up to court.

Pretrial Release

Many believe the overcrowded jail problem is a direct result of many cases alike.  Those charged with minor offenses and low bail amounts end up remaining in custody until he or she is seen by the judge, simply because they cannot afford the required 10% bondsman fee in order to bail out.

As a solution, some are proposing a process known as "pretrial release" for those that are unable to afford bail,  which will allow the persons to be released until trial. This raises many questions and concerns, and some say that the inmates should not be classified by who can and cannot afford to post bail.

Why The Bail System Works

The opposition to the "pretrial release" proposal points heavily to bail statistics. One statistic in particular shows that the level of accountability for a person out on bail is much greater versus the person who is out on an unsecured release with a promise to appear.  In fact, twice as many people who are out on an unsecured release fail to appear in comparison to those who are released on bail.

Furthermore, the person who is out on bail has the signer of the bail bond contract (known as the indemnitor) and the bondsman who both have legal and financial interest, making sure the defendant appears as promised.

In addition, studies are finding that the current bail system is working. Released in January, 2011 a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, states that the overall jail population was on a decline as a result of "commercial bail" (which is referring to bail bondsmen).

The California bail system works for the same reasons that commercial bail works nation-wide: responsibility and money. When a defendant is released on a bail bond, the "indemnitor" (the person signing the bail bond contract) and the bondsman are both taking responsibility to make certain that the defendant appears in court to face charges. Similarly, both the indemnitor and the bondsman have a financial incentive; if the defendant fails to appear in court, the indemnitor and the bondsman want to return the defendant because they do not want to pay the full bail amount.


Published:  08/04/2012