In Bail Bonds, Commercial Bail Bonds

Historically, when an unsecured release option is used there is still a higher failure to appear rate (30%) than when a commercial bail secured option is used (18%).  (Tabarrok, 2004) (Thomas H. Cohen, 1990-2004)  In the article “Reducing Courts’ Failure to Appear Rate: A Procedural Justice Approach” it is clearly documented how through a series of controlled studies, a variation of commercial bail bondsmen working with court administrators, probation officers and law enforcement professionals offered the most effective means of securing a defendants return to court. The unique piece to this study is how the bondsmen and courts establish reminders of court dates and various other methods of holding defendants accountable.

Mary T Phillips, Ph.D. indicates in her report from the New York City Criminal Justice agency, Inc., that FTA’s substantially increase when cash bail or pretrial release programs are utilized for defendants. Her research shows that in a city such as New York, FTA’s of defendants who post a bail through the services of a bondsman are almost 40% less, and the average defendant that FTA’s on a bondsmen is returned to the custody of the court 90% of the time. (Mary T. Phillips, 2011).

The greatest argument for commercial bail being utilized is the reappearance rates of felony offenders. From 1990-2004 and being published in 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice released a special report outlining failure to appear, pretrial misconduct, percentage of fugitives and rearrested fugitives. The study showed that 19% of defendants released on a Surety Bond (commercial bail) remained in fugitive status when FTA after 1 year. All other types of release averaged a 30-36% rate of defendants remaining in fugitive status when FTA after 1 year.

This makes the obvious argument that commercial bail provides a greater accountability in securing the return of a defendant into custody when FTA. The most attractive part to this study is that the option (commercial bail) that provides greatest accountability is also at no cost to the public. Taking this point further is to remember that if a defendant when FTA is not returned, the commercial bail entity must pay the face value of the bond.  (Thomas H. Cohen, 1990-2004)


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Cited Sources


Jones, M. R. (2013). Unsecured Bonds: The As Effective And Most Efficient Pretrial Release Option.

Justice Policy Institute (1). (2012, September). Bail Fail: Why the U.S. should end the practice of using money for bail. Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute.

Justice Policy Institute (2). (2012, September). For Better or For Profit: How the bail bonding industry stands in the way of fair and effective pretrial justice. Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute.

Mary T. Phillips, P. (2011). Project Director and Deputy Director. New York City Criminal Justice Agency, Inc., Reasearch Department. Jerome E. . Retrieved from

Tabarrok, E. H. (2004, April). Public Versus Private Law Enforcement: Evidence From Bail Jumping. The

Journal of Law & Economics.

Thomas H. Cohen, P. a. (1990-2004). Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants in State Courts. U.S. Department of Justice; Office of Justice Programs.