With the recent “bail reform” debacle in the state of New Jersey fully underway a number of issues that have been seething below the surface are now finally rising to the top of the bail agents worry list. The most troubling (and most urgent) of these issues is clearly the complete lack of organization on a national level with regards to the bail industries “leadership”.
PBUS (Professional Bail agents of the United States) has been mostly silent during the crisis, which has drawn the ire of many an agent, in both NJ and beyond. In reality this should come as little surprise as their has been a minimum of involvement for some time from the organization on threats to the industry, at both a state or federal level. Their is no discernable agenda or timeline for progress that I can find set forth by PBUS let alone a means of implementing said agenda.
Most feel that the blame for this lack of action falls squarely on the shoulders of the current President Beth Chapman, however, like most politicians her main sin seems to be promising more than she can deliver. I would point out that PBUS was hardly a hotbed of action for agents prior to her stint as president. Seems she is suffering from a bad case of high expectations coupled with low performance and misplaced priorities.
That being said we the agents are as much to blame as the current leadership for the state of affairs we now find ourselves in as an industry. We should be demanding more or our leadership, many wanted Chapman because they thought her “star power” would make swaying things easier; well that star power comes at a price, she has to work to maintain it. That goal is clearly more important to her then being president of the organization and its now starting to show in noticeable ways. PBUS for many is just an excuse to go to Vegas (if you don,t want to go to Vegas you can enjoy playing slots games from home take a look Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club) once a year and play with https://www.slotsbaby.com. When things were good it was ok, however, we are now at a crisis point in our profession and action is clearly called for before it’s too late. Were I the one setting the agenda I would quickly pull together short term goals that look something like this:
1. Either defund or vote out most of the current leadership at PBUS. In my opinion I don’t believe anyone is truly trying to be part of the problem but the road to hell is paved with good intentions and the experiment of a celebrity president is a failed one.
2. PBUS needs to start moving quickly on grassroots support at the state level. NJ is in immediate need of support and everyone and I do mean everyone should rally their immediately to stop the bleeding. It is the state associations that should be the conduit to PBUS and helping to set the agenda as needed.
3. There is an effort from groups like VERA to destroy bail on a federal level through judicial activism. This is the battle PBUS was formed to fight. They should be in constant contact with the American Bail Coalition (ABC) a group that does appear to have its act together and from my limited vantage point appear to be doing all or most of the heavy lifting at the moment.
4. Identifying and aiding in the bolstering of each state bail association and where their is no state association, forming one and making sure it’s strong enough to confront threats in an active manner as opposed to reactive (the current method).
5. Take back surety bail one fight at a time, state by state. It isn’t pretty and it’s not going to be easy but it’s what needs to be done. In addition to NJ, both Indiana and Missouri are in shameful shape as two I can name off the top of my head and their is no one trying to help. It will be a bloody battle of attrition but there’s no two ways around that it’s what has to happen if we’re going to survive as an industry.
6. Last and perhaps most crucial is to reach out to other groups that share a common core of values and like minded interests and form a broader coalition of support. If we can get people and not just bail agents to join our cause it goes a long way toward our credibility and it effectively gets the word out. Much of the reason we’re losing ground is that no one outside the industry understands what’s happening and we are letting groups like VERA frame the debate to the public and outright lie. The problem is that bail is not common sense and what VERA is selling sounds reasonable on its face if you don’t know any better.
This is a rough outline of how I would set and enact a short term agenda were I advising PBUS. It is my hope that the people in charge of the organization decide to set a similar order of business in light of the current backlash.