Noble County Courthouse in Perry, Oklahoma where bail bonding reform fight continues

As more and more horror stories emerge from states that attempted to get rid of the bail bonds system more and more legislatures are seeing through the hard sell of the anti-bail lobby. Oklahoma recently became one of the latest states to reject the false arguments of the anti-bail zealots and vote to keep their existing system in place in the interest of public safety and justice.

A False Bail Bonds Narrative Promoting a Discredited Idea

The hard sell the anti-bail lobbyists pushed in Oklahoma was particular disingenuous, misleading and in some cases, simply false. Let’s go over the main points of their argument one at a time to see just what type of fantasy they were trying to sell Oklahomans.

Anti-Bail Talking Point 1 - Thousands of Oklahomans are being held for months at a time solely because they can’t afford bail.

Not true. The anti-bail lobbyists love to twist facts and this is a perfect example. In this case they were counting everyone being held in jail who had not been bailed out. But there are myriad potential reasons why a person has not been released on bail, including:

  • They violated the terms of a previous release
  • They violated the terms of their probation for a previous conviction
  • They have a history of jumping bail and so have not been offered it
  • They are awaiting transfer to another facility
  • The judge has determined they are a danger to the public and has set a high bail
  • They are repeat offenders and so have not been offered bail

If you took all these people into account it would indeed add up to thousands of people statewide. But these are not first time offenders accused of misdemeanors who are too poor to post bail as the anti-bail advocates say. These are people being held for entirely valid reasons.

Anti-Bail Talking Point 2 - Releasing nearly everyone accused of a crime would save Oklahoma taxpayers millions of dollars a year.

This is a particularly insidious myth because it only focused on one part of the equation. If nearly everyone was released while awaiting trial Oklahoma taxpayers would have saved whatever money it costs to hold them. But - and this is a significant ‘but’ - nearly everyone released would have needed to be monitored. And there was no system in place to do that.

Designing, building and implementing such a system would have cost Oklahoma taxpayers many millions more than the current system does. But reformers conveniently avoided mentioning that. In addition, the new high-tech monitoring system would have needed to be manned 24/7/365. Who would have paid to hire and train the people to do that? Who would have paid to maintain the system once it was in place? Taxpayers. So taxpayers would have been swapping one type of expense for another much larger one.

Don’t believe it? Well, consider Washington DC. Because it’s a federal district DC uses the federal judicial system that has all but eliminated the bondsman. Instead of bail, DC employs the type of elaborate monitoring system that would be required in states if they hope to keep track of everyone they’d be releasing after they got rid of bail. The DC system costs approximately $100 per year per resident. In Oklahoma with some 3.6 million residents that means $360 million per year to monitor and track people released by the no-bail system. Does that sound like savings to you?

Anti-Bail Talking Point 3 - The bail system damages individuals and communities.

Nonsense. A justice system only works if it is able to ensure accountability and provide justice for victims. Numerous studies have proven again and again that bail is the most effective means of ensuring the accused shows up in court to face the charges against them. By ensuring accountability bail bonding creates stronger, safer, more just communities.

To drive that point home we have the example of Harris County, Texas. Harris County underwent a year long, court-imposed no-bail period that ended early this year. With an active bail system the average number of no-shows in court was 10%. After eliminating bail for a year the number of no-shows skyrocketed to 50%. And every no show means no justice for a victim.

Furthermore, in states that have adopted the catch-and-release method promoted by reformers the number of people being held for trial tends to increase. In Maryland for instance, the number of people being held over increased 31% after bail was eliminated. Spokane Washington experimented with a no-bail system to see what would happen. The result? The jail population in Spokane increased 10% which cost local taxpayers and additional $5.5 million.

The Bottom Line

In 2018 Alaska repealed the bail reform law they had implemented in 2016 after the state experienced skyrocketing no-show rates and a dramatic uptick in crime. They were the first state to push back against the anti-bail zealots and the courage of the Alaskan people empowered others to take a stand for civility and justice.

That movement has now reached the heartland with Oklahoma rejecting the false narrative and doctored statistics of the Arnold Foundation and their agents. Should the anti-bail forces return to Adams County, Broomfield County, Weld County and Denver take your lead from your neighbors in Oklahoma and tell them “No thanks”. You and your kids and grandkids will be glad you did.