More than 20,000 U.S. prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19, including some here in Brazoria County. As this is a result of the shared living spaces and population density of prisons, the common solution proposed is to reduce the number of people held in these facilities. When defendants are released rather than being required to post bail, that places reduced demand on the bail bond industry—which is already facing financial shortcomings due to fewer arrests and more people on lockdown at home, rather than out committing crimes. Coronavirus may prove deadly to the bail bond system, as it is encouraging reforms and may change the criminal justice system forever.
Justice in the age of COVID-19
Approximately 631,000 people are held in local jails throughout the U.S. Of those numbers, 74 percent are being held before trial because they cannot afford bail or a commercial bail bond. When considering this scenario and the likelihood of COVID-19 spread in holding facilities, courts made the logical conclusion that the best course of action is to reduce jail populations when possible.
So far in this pandemic, 16,000 people have been released from jails nationwide. There is also further debate against bail in its entirety and the encouragement of no-money bonds. In addition, there are fewer arrests due to people sheltering in place. That is why the system took this as an opportunity to evaluate who is in the jails and whether they should really be there.
The future of the bail bond industry
Like any other industry, bail bondsmen go with the ebbs and flows. Businesses do not end because crime levels drop, and most of us faced extenuating economic circumstances before and came out of it still in operation. Besides giving people a key to freedom so they do not have to spend their pretrial time in jail, we also ensure they show up so victims get their day in court.
However, if a bond is no longer required, that eliminates the need for bail bonds. If people are regularly released on their own recognizance, that means they do not need a bail bondsman. There are bail bond companies that laid off their staff and plan to shutter their doors.
All that said, we know reform is on the horizon. Even the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, an industry professional organization, agrees that those charged with victimless crimes should be considered for release without bail. Also, the reforms currently proposed do not eliminate all possibility of bail and the need for a bail bond. Past criminal records and other circumstances may still lead judges to assign bail for some defendants.
COVID-19 has not been easy on the Brazoria County bail bond industry. However, we are not prepared to be counted out yet. For now, our services continue to be in demand, and are often needed. If you or a loved one require a bail bond and pretrial release, reach out to the team at Brazoria County Bail Bonds today to start the process.