Man wearing ankle bracelet

One of the cornerstones of the anti-bail movement has been the oft-repeated notion that the entire concept of the bail bondsman is obsolete. There is nothing a bonding agent does, we've been told, that an ankle bracelet and some software can't do better. It sure sounds great. And in a world where 7-year-olds walk around with more computing power in their pocket than it took to send men to the moon, it's tempting to think it's true. But it's not. And one brave law enforcement official recently displayed the courage to stand in opposition to the catch and release mindset that has gripped parts of the nation.

Defending the Age Old Bail Bonds System

The law enforcement official in question is Charlotte Mecklenburg, NC Police Chief Kerr Putney. And in a recent news conference, he blamed changes in the Mecklenburg County bail policy for a spike in criminal activity. Earlier this year Mecklenburg County basically eliminated cash bail minimums for most crimes. In its place, they instituted a system of releasing suspects on the condition that they wear electronic monitoring bracelets and promise to show up for court.

During the news conference, Putney was blunt in his assessment of the new system stating that "the system doesn't have equal accountability" and that criminals wearing monitoring bracelets "have become more brazen."

To back up his argument, he pointed to statistics that show that, in the short time since bail in Mecklenburg County was eliminated in favor of electronic monitoring, 25 people wearing monitoring bracelets have been arrested for committing robberies. Two more have been arrested for allegedly committing murder. And 59 have simply cut the bracelets off and disappeared.

And if that’s not bad enough 20 homicide suspects have been released with nothing more than a monitoring bracelet and their promise to show up in court. That’s homicide suspects. Think about that for a moment. And this what the anti-bail movement wants to bring to your town?

Distributing Blame Where it Belongs

During the now-infamous news conference, Putney also had a member of the organization Judicial Watch - Marcus Philemon - speak to and take questions from the assembled media. Philemon implied that there was plenty of blame to go around for the failure of the new system and singled out Chief District Judge Regan Miller as well as Chief Magistrate Khalif Rhodes.

After Philemon spoke, Chief Putney was asked if he agreed that Miller and Rhodes shared some of the blame. Putney’s reply? "There is some accountability that all people in the justice system need to be held to - a certain standard. And you can plug in any name. They all qualify as far as I'm concerned." Something tells us he’s not going to be on Miller’s or Rhodes’ Christmas card list this year.

The Role of the Media

But Putney didn’t stop there. He also pointed the finger at the media and took it to task for not presenting both sides of the story when it comes to the new bail policy. He said that while the media is holding every other component of the criminal justice system to incredibly high standards, they have been silent on the failure of the electronic monitoring experiment. The media, he said, "should follow the facts. Just like we do in any investigation." Aware that he may have invited the wrath of media down upon him by calling it out, he added: "Yeah, I took that shot, too."

Silence and Misdirection

Putney’s defense of the bail bonding system and his unsparing assessment of the failure of catch and release programs was met with silence from those he called to task. Neither Judge Miller nor Magistrate Rhodes issued any statement in the wake of the unprecedented news conference. Their non-response follows a similar pattern employed by anti-bail advocates in other parts of the country who simply don't comment on criticism. The strategy seems to hinge on the hope that if you do not engage the opposition, the critics will simply go away.

The only response of any kind from on high came from a low ranking administrator at the Mecklenburg courthouse who invoked a study by a publicly funded think tank called MDRC. That study claimed that bail-free systems had nothing to do with rising crime rates. And that they also were not associated with the recent spike in defendants not showing up to face their accusers in court.

Follow the Money

Here’s the problem with that little piece of public relations side stepping: MDRC gets almost 70% of its funding from state and local governments. With the rest coming from private individuals, including anti-bail billionaire George Soros. And what does it do with that money? It spends some $22 million a year lobbying for criminal justice reform, including bail reform. So expecting the MDRC to offer an unbiased opinion when it comes to the effectiveness of anti-bail measures is unrealistic, to be kind.


Police Chief Putney deserves immense credit for standing up in public and calling out anti-bail zealots for the damage they are doing to the social fabric. As this movement seeps across the country and threatens to infest places like Adams County, Broomfield County, Weld County and Denver citizens need to be aware of the facts. And they are these: eliminating bail bonding breeds contempt for the system, creates legions of new fugitives from justice, leads to increased crime rates and depends on a high tech monitoring system that costs millions of taxpayer dollars and doesn’t work.