The American Civil Liberties Union Campaign for Smart Justice and the Color of Change released a report showing how the bail bonds industry is depriving people of color of their constitutional rights. According to the report, each year millions are forced to pay bail after arrests. But the corporations that insure the bond money are operating with little oversight, and are profiting immensely from the pretrial justice system.
Bails Bonds businesses appear to be small “mom and pop” business that secure your release from jail, for a nonrefundable fee, usually about 10 percent, in exchange the bondsman promises to pay the full amount to the court, in the event the defendant fails to show for their hearing. And because of the help, the defendant has to pay the money back, through installments, with interest.
The small storefront seen by the average person is really a multinational insurance corporation, or surety companies, underwriting each bond. The report shows that bail businesses are subsidiaries of the major multinational corporations, and less than ten large insurers underwrite the majority of the approximately $14B in bail bonds issued in America. A few of the companies include Accredited Surety & Casualty Company, AIA Bail Bond Insurance Company, American Surety Company, United States Surety Company, and Financial Casualty & Surety, Safety National.
“Big insurance is raking in huge profits by putting a price on people’s freedom,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change. “Like payday loans, bail bonds are a predatory practice that traps Black families and poor people in debt. For too long, the corporations that reap massive profits from this unjust destruction of our communities have been allowed to operate unchecked.”
Bail bonds are a lucrative business, with little risk or bail losses. It is a thriving corrupt unregulated system that is driving mass incarceration, and a way to keep poor people poor. Plus the bond companies are routinely targeting low-income people, Black people, and other people of color.