It’s troubling to watch celebrities and big corporate companies latch on to the small picture of bail reform and ignore the big picture because of political interest groups banging on their door. (See this video narrated by John Legend as an example.) It’s always easy to argue or support the small picture. The same arguments can be made over and over again. Small instances of stories with unbelievable conclusions are easy to tell in order to persuade people to hop on board. However, our world is very big. There are millions of people in this country and millions of situations that happen every day. We, as a society, tend to focus on specific instances because that’s the easier path to take.
The companies that focus on the small picture have resources to gather statistics to look at the big picture and demand court systems answer to our broken criminal justice system. These are statistics that court systems will never release voluntarily out of fear of backlash. The length of time some courts allow from the date of accusation/arrest to the date someone is brought back into court to answer to their charges could be sometimes years. The distance certain jurisdictions are willing to go in order to recover someone once they miss court is absurd. Most people that miss court can flee prosecution as long as they leave the state they were charged with a crime in. In some instances, you only need to go as close as 60 miles away from a jurisdiction to escape prosecution. Survey 100 civilians and ask what their opinion on that is and I guarantee you 100% of people would think that is ludicrous and ask how that is possible. It’s possible because the police departments and sheriffs’ departments don’t have the resources to track these people. It’s that simple.
Honest numbers and conversation can be the answer to the system’s problems. Nobody talks about the failure-to appear statistics. Nobody talks about the statistics of victim’s opinions. Nobody talks about the lack of judges available to handle the quantity of cases piling in on a daily basis. Further, let’s remember that many of these people behind bars found themselves there because of their own actions. Many of these people are grown adults that have the ability to make decisions to abide by our country’s laws or not allow for themselves to be put into a situation that could find themselves behind bars. That’s, at least, how I was brought up in my family and I’ve managed to stay out of trouble.
I definitely agree with some of the reform on petty charges or nonviolent first-time offenders. In fact, reform is a great idea. The complete extinction of the cash bail system, however, is a terrible idea. But that’s coming from a bail bondsman, so I’m biased and my opinion doesn’t count, right? I would love nothing more than to be a part of the reformation of the criminal justice system and even the use of bail bonds. I have ten years of experience in the field. Why does my opinion not count? The small picture calls for my opinion to be useless. My motivation is reduced to my own gain. Yet, the big picture calls for my opinion to be insightful, useful, and meaningful. This is my livelihood. This is what I do to feed my family. This is also why my 25 employees wake up every day and go to work to feed their families.
Many of our customers appreciate what we do. They thank us for our services. We help people get through this process of the criminal justice system, and it’s not easy. Do I see that the system isn’t fair at times? Absolutely. I would never deny that, but what system as complex as our criminal justice system is perfect? Accountability is extremely difficult to uphold in our society, and we can’t just throw it out the window. We can’t continue to ignore the big picture.
I am positive that the current movement in this country pertaining to cash bail is going to fail if we continue down this path. It is only a matter of time before the statistics will prove this statement. That is, of course, only if the warrant divisions and court systems across the country where this reform has been implemented are honest with their statistics.
Transparency is a powerful tool that nobody can hide behind. I am looking for roughly 190 fugitives right now, at this moment, and I am one of thousands of bonding companies across the country. I laugh when I hear statistics that get pulled out of the sky from all of these bail reform supporters that 90% or 95% of people show back up to court when they are released on their own signature so bail bonds is useless. Come to my office and I’ll show you some REAL statistics.
I guarantee if John Legend’s wife got kidnapped and beaten to a pulp by somebody tomorrow, they’d go to jail. If, the following morning, that somebody was released on their own signature bond, promising to go back to court, Legend would be singing a different tune. Replace John Legend’s name with all of these other celebrity names and big-name corporations in support of ending cash bail and they also would be singing a different tune. Who am I though? Just a bail bondsman with a biased opinion who isn’t allowed a seat at the table.
I don’t need bail bonds to survive. It’s the only career I’ve had since graduating from college so ending that worries me on what I would do to provide for my family. I feel the same about my entire staff and their families. I’m confident we all could find something else to exert our knowledge and abilities towards to be able to provide for our families. What I do need to survive is ensuring that my 8 month-old daughter grows up in a society where accountability and security is prevalent. That is why I will fight this war against my industry. It’s not about me, it’s about my daughter and the other children that surround us and are growing up in this society that is falling apart.
Ryan Matalon is one of the owners of A 2nd Chance. He uses the experience and wisdom he has acquired from years of seeing loved ones and friends go through the bail bonding process, to help those in need. His favorite part of working in the bail bonding business is seeing the satisfaction on families faces when he provides their loved ones with A 2nd Chance.