Fewer bail bonds mean more prisoners
July 20, 2012
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
Fewer San Luis Obispo County arrestees are able to afford bail to get out of jail these days, causing grief for relatives and fiscal woes for local bail bond agents.
One other result is an ongoing and worsening crowding of the county jail, and its growing population of persons charged with more serious felonies.
And for the first time in one bondsman’s memory, arrest warrants for misdemeanors are not being enforced.
“For the first time ever, I think, misdemeanor warrants are being OR’ed (released on their own recognizance) on the spot… no arrests are being made,” said Justin Hendrix, a third generation manager at Smitty’s Bail Bonds in San Luis Obispo. “I have never heard of that before.”
Parents and others are more prone to leave their loved ones behind bars, mainly due to a lack of funds necessary to post bond.
The state’s new prison “realignment” law is having a big impact on bail companies’ bottom line, also. California authorities, in a cost-cutting move, are sending more offenders to county jail rather than to state prison.
And, according to the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department, felony arrests are accelerating.
Greg Sullivan, owner of ABC Bonding in SLO, told KSBY recently that he has never seen a period of depressed business like this one.
He had a fully-staffed office, with six full-time agents, but now he runs the business alone. He writes fewer than half of the number of bonds he was doing five years ago. His primary client base is gone.
Felony arrests now call for bail of $20,000, requiring a 10 percent cash payment.
When a defendant fails to appear, an arrest warrant is issued. But if a defendant is released on his own recognizance, little else happens.
In many cities and states, police are overwhelmed with outstanding arrest warrants. In California alone, about two million warrants have gone unserved, according to the winter 2011 issue of the Wilson Quarterly, a Washington, D.C., publication of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Hundreds of thousands of those are for felonies, including ‘thousands of homicides,” according to the center.
There is one bright spot in the picture, according to Hendrix.
“For some reason, we don’t get many bail jumpers,” he said.