2017 saw intensified scrutiny of the for-profit bail industry.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit in New Orleans alleging that several bail bond companies imposed excessive pretrial monitoring fees on people paying for their services, then illegally revoked the bonds when people couldn’t keep up with the exorbitant charges.Egana et al. v. Blair’s Bail Bonds et al., No. 2:17-cv-5899 (E.D. La., 2017); Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), “Bail Bond Companies Charged Illegal Fees, Used Bounty Hunters to Kidnap Clients, Extort Money,” press release (Montgomery, Alabama: SPLC, June 19, 2017); and Ken Daley, “Federal Lawsuit Accuses New Orleans Bail Bond Companies of Deceptive Fees,” Times-Picayune, June 19, 2017. In a comprehensive analysis of the use of bail, fines, and fees in New Orleans, the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) found that $4.7 million was paid by individuals primarily from low-income communities to private bail bond companies in one year, with an additional $1.7 million in bail fees going to courts and other agencies. Mathilde Laisne, Jon Wool, and Christian Henrichson, Past Due: Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice in New Orleans (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2017). Color of Change and the ACLU released a groundbreaking report exposing corruption in the for-profit bail bond industry, including the control that a handful of insurance agencies have over it.“Selling off our Freedom: How Insurance Corporations Have Taken Over Our Bail System,” Color of Change, May 10, 2017. Research by VOCAL-New York and the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund found that the bail bond industry in New York City received between $14 million and $20 million in predatory lending fees in just one year.Max Rivlin-Nadler, “Report: NYC’s Bail Bond Industry is a $20 Million Predatory Mess,” Village Voice, June 14, 2017.