Oct 28, 2017

How the bail bonding industry thrives in the U.S.

Photo: Eric Risberg / AP

The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world with a legal bail bonding industry, which allows bail bond companies to pay a defendant's bond in exchange for a fee (typically 15% of the bail price) when the defendant can't afford to pay the bail price and doesn't want to wait in jail until their trial.

Why it matters:

The bail system, which often favors those who are rich and hurts citizens who can't manage to scrape the hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars required for bail, is ripe for reform. Senators Kamala Harris and Rand Paul introduced a bipartisan bail reform bill earlier this year, which incentivizes states to reform their bail practices, but not much has come of it.

The facts:
  • The U.S. and the Philippines are the only two countries in which the commercial bail bond industry is legal.
  • In 2017, 70% of the 630,000 Americans in local jails have yet to be convicted, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
  • The bail bond companies deal with about $14 billion in bonds each year, bringing in a total of $2 billion, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute.
  • Part of the Eighth Amendment of the constitution says that ""excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed."
  • Bail is intended to ensure defendants show up for their trial. The money is returned to them when they do.
  • Not every possible offender is offered bail. To determine whether an accused person qualifies for bail, the judge will look at their physical and mental health, financial resources, family ties, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal history and their history of appearing at court.
  • If a bail is less than $2,000, bail bond companies aren't always able to make a profit and won't take up the case, leaving many people no other option but to wait in jail.

Go deeper

Coronavirus updates: New global case numbers surpass China's

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. As Denmark and Estonia reported their first cases Thursday, Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia — which has 23 confirmed infections — told a news conference, "The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 39 mins ago - Health

Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know so far

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Company in Milwaukee Molson Coors on Wednesday, including the 51-year-old gunman, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at an evening press conference with local police.

Details: All of the victims worked at the brewery complex, as did the shooter who died of "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police confirmed in a statement late Wednesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

WHO official leads criticism of Trump's coronavirus response

President Trump with members of the new coronavirus task force, including Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Wednesday. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, special advisor to the director general of the World Health Organization, told MSNBC Wednesday he found "most" of what President Trump said at his briefing on the novel coronavirus "incoherent."

The big picture: As the number of confirmed cases reaches 60 in the U.S., the top health professional — who was a health policy adviser in the Obama administration — is among several leading figures, in particular, Democrats, to criticize the president for his response to the outbreak.

Go deeperArrow4 hours ago - Health