With a lot of talk nationwide about the concept of “bail reform” the idea of a professional surety standing as accountable for the appearance of the accused has come under increased scrutiny. The practice of “money bail” as its being painted in the media as one of the greedy bail bondsman preying upon an unsuspecting or grieving family. As a result, it falls on agents to promote best practices within the industry and present themselves in a professional Manner.
This becomes a problem in some states where obtaining an agents license is an easy endeavor. As a result, their as an increasing amount of misconduct and financial malfeasance in some states where the agents are in the same criminal predicament as the problem they are supposed to be helping.
Florida is a great example of a state that has taken steps to ensure that only the best and those of high moral character are allowed to enter the profession. A one-year apprenticeship is mandatory before one is a full agent and able to conduct business. This has led Florida to become one of the strongest bail states in the Union with favorable bail practices that benefit all.
In the same vein, Ohio also took steps to model after the sunshine state and in 2001 altered their licensing practices to make a 6-month probationary period before an agent matures into taking financial responsibility with a court and a surety. This probation period has been a huge boon to the state of Ohio, both in terms of weeding out bad actors as well as making sure qualified agents are given an opportunity to learn the actual nuts and bolts of the business. As a result of this common-sense provision, you have not seen the sweeping changes and negative perception that has affected some states like NJ and Maryland.
As good for thought we, as Ohio agents should consider adopting a commonly agreed on set of best practices and using them to train agents as a standard tactic during the probation period. By making sure that the bail agent in Ohio is a professional and well trained contributing stakeholder in the criminal justice process, we can show by example the continuing value that surety bail holds for the state of Ohio and indeed the entire nation.
Bail is a uniquely American institution and it is up to each agent to uphold the proud tradition of accountable release and swift attendance with the utmost dignity and honesty to maintain the rule of law in our great nation.