Friday, April 8, 2011

All in the name of Justice

This past weekend I received a rather unusual call; and trust me, for a Bondsman to say a call is unusual....well, let's just say we hear a lot of things throughout the average day.  This was a call from a young man who needed to bond one of his family members out of jail.  What's unusual about that?  Well, the family member turned out to be his Grandmother.  Normally, it's the other way around.

The young man was pretty distraught; understandably, after witnessing his 77 year old Grandmother handcuffed and taken to jail.  Apparently, she had been issued a traffic citation back in 1997 and either had or thought she had sent in the payment.  Either way, the payment wasn't received or wasn't properly recorded with the Courts and an arrest warrant was 1997.

Fast forward 14 years: the aforementioned young man is driving his Grandmother on her weekly errands.  He fails to come to a complete stop while turning right at an intersection and is pulled over by an officer.  The officer; as he should, runs a warrant check on all occupants in the vehicle.  Lo and behold, the warrant from 1997 pops up for Grandma!  Grandma is asked to step out of the vehicle, puts her hands on the hood, is handcuffed and given a ride to the jail; where she is photographed, fingerprinted, changed into an inmate jumpsuit, placed in a holding cell, etc.

The young man is not only bewildered, but very upset.  He follows the patrol car to the jail and waits for news of his Grandmother.  When he asks the jail staff why his Grandmother was arrested, the response is "Because she is a Fugitive of Justice." and then something along the lines of: "She can run, but she can't hide."  The young man tries to explain that there must be some mistake, but to no avail.  When he asks whether or not his Grandmother could have just been issued a summons to appear, the lackluster response is "Probably, but there's less money in that."

Our Justice System was never intended to become a profit center for our government, yet that is exactly what it has become.  I got the picture the first time I saw an armored car pull up to the Court House and watched the armed guards make several trips in and out carrying bags bulging with money.  Anyone who thinks that our Justice System hasn't morphed into a money machine need only sit in on a few Court Hearings.

One of the biggest profit centers for the Justice System is PreTrial Release.  A more accurate title for this division of the Justice System is PreTrial Sentencing.  This is a Division that has complete and total control of "monitoring" (i.e. collecting revenue from) Defendants prior to their being found Not Guilty, Guilty or Case Dismissed.

Ever hear of Presumed Innocent Until Proven Guilty?  Not now.  Now you are required by PreTrial Release to submit to random breath analysis, urine analysis, check-ins, ankle monitors, GPS tracking, etc.; all at your expense and in all cases; meaning Non-Violent Crimes like Traffic Offenses.  In most cases, the dollar amounts paid to PreTrial Release is far more than the amounts sentenced by the Judge if you're found guilty.  Oh, and if you're Not Guilty or your Case is Dismissed, those dollars spent on PreTrial Release are Non-Refundable.  Oftentimes, the money Defendants are required to pay to the PreTrial Release Profit Center negatively impact their ability to afford private legal council.  This obviously impedes their opportunity to prove their innocence.

Who is PreTrial Release's favorite customer?  Employed men and women(i.e. those who can pay the tab), preferably homeowners(i.e. those with assets) and those accused of Low Risk Crimes(i.e. traffic offenses and misdemeanor crimes).  The ones who are not likely to be a hassle, the ones who have a lot to lose; the ones who PreTrial Release  can lean on and impose more hoops to jump through, thus upping their "monitoring" fees.  Basically the bread and butter, middle class segment of society; in short: TAXPAYERS.

Wake Up, America!


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