Early Inmate Releases Hurting Bail Bond Business, Some Down 80%
Early inmate releases throughout the state have more than just frustrated law enforcement and put residents on edge. They have hammered the bail bond industry.
Jails have turned into an "incarceration drive-through," said John Bench, vice president of Absolute Bail Bonds, which operates 17 locations statewide, including one in Modesto.
Bench, who is president of the Golden State Bail Agents Association, estimates that the industry statewide has suffered a 50 percent decrease in overall bonds written in the past 18 months.
Jail bed caps, budget constraints and now the state's prison realignment plan, which has low-level inmates serving sentences in county jails instead of prison, are contributing to more people being released on their recognizance. That means they don't have to pay to get out of jail, and no one has a financial stake in ensuring they show up for court appearances.
In Stanislaus County, only judges can decide if people are released on their recognizance, but in other counties, pretrial services officers can help speed the process to ease jail crowding.
In Fresno, jail records show that 40 to 60 inmates are being released early each day, a trend that started in 2010 as jail capacity shrank.
At Lucky Bail Bonds in Fresno, owner Barry Pearlstein said business is down 60 percent over the past four years. Albert Ramirez Jr. said business at Albert Ramirez Bail Bonds is half what it was in 2008.
Bill Peters of Stockton-based Bill's Bail Bonds said that as a small-business owner, he has suffered even more. He said business has decreased by 80 percent in the past few years. Serving mostly Stockton and Modesto, Peters recently has had to expand to stay afloat, taking cases anywhere he can get them, including the Bay Area and foothills.
The reason is simple ...