Beth Chapman, President of the Professional
Bail Agents of the United States (PBUS),
Praises “Citizens’ Right to Know Act of 2017”
H.R.2152 would, for the first time, allow public scrutiny of taxpayer funded
“get out of jail free” programs.
HONOLULU, HI (Wednesday, April 26, 2017) – Star of the popular reality TV show “Dog and Beth: On the Hunt” and president of the largest national bail agent’s association (PBUS), Beth Chapman praised Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) today for his introduction of the Citizens’ Right to Know Act of 2017 (H.R.2152). The legislation, introduced in Congress today, requires publicly funded pre-trial release agencies receiving federal funds to report who participates in their programs and other information, including:
- Criminal history and previous charges filed
- Previous failures to appear (FTA)
- Current and previous non-compliance infractions
“Currently, these pre-trial release programs aren’t required to report any information at all about the defendants released through their programs,” said Chapman. “This gaping hole has allowed many hardened career criminals, who should be locked up, to get out of jail on our tax dollars. The publicly funded pre-trial release system is a mess, and Congressman Poe’s bill is the first step in cleaning it up.”
Basic information on defendants entering taxpayer funded pre-trial release programs is neither collected nor reported in any systematic fashion. Currently, the U.S. Department of Justice only collects data from pre-trial release agencies related to crime rates and trends in the aggregate. However, it does not collect data on specific participants and programs. Thus, there is no mechanism to determine if pre-trial release agencies are effective in ensuring that defendants adhere to their pre-trial release requirements or whether these defendants actually show up for trial. This lack of accountability, Chapman states, puts the public at risk.
“Without Congressman Poe’s bill, policymakers and taxpayers have no ability to determine the effectiveness of taxpayer-funded pretrial release programs, and without such data, hundreds of federally funded pretrial release programs lack sufficient accountability to U.S. taxpayers,” stated Chapman. “In addition, we don’t know if these programs meet the safety needs of the public or if the loose administration of these programs actually endangers the public further. These are serious concerns which the American people deserve to have addressed.”
These comments come within weeks of bills introduced in both California and Texas state legislatures which, if passed, would require all defendants to be given a “free” pre-trial release unless the state can prove a risk – something which critics assert would endanger the public and allow criminals a “get out of jail free” card. As President of PBUS, Chapman publicly worked against the Texas bill and personally traveled to California and advocated against their bill last week. She supports the introduction of accountability measures like Congressman Poe’s bill at all state legislatures and for common sense reforms that could benefit both the criminal justice system and the public’s safety.
Chapman and her husband, Duane “Dog” Chapman, have both spent decades in the bail bonds industry, and have seen the industry change dramatically over the years. Until the 1960s, there were three principal options for the accused pending trial: (1) Release on one’s own recognizance (ROR); (2) Commercial bail; or (3) incarceration. Commercial bail ensured the appearance of the defendant in court at no cost to the taxpayer. Pre-trial release programs began in the 1960’s for the purpose of securing release for indigent, non-violent offenders who couldn’t afford monetary bail. Chapman stated that what started out as a well-intentioned idea has expanded well beyond the original scope and purpose.
“Today there are over 300 pretrial release programs nationwide whose participants routinely include violent and repeat offenders, many of whom are able to post a commercial bond and have done so in the past. In many instances, the federal government has become a major source of funding for pretrial release programs,” stated Chapman. “The lack of accountability and supervision of defendants released through these pretrial programs is fueling a growing consensus to require greater transparency and accountability of such programs that use taxpayer funds.”
“The federal government has engaged in the ultimate taxpayer bailout, a bailout for hardened criminals with no respect for the rule of law,” said Congressman Ted Poe. “From sexual assault to flat out murder, these criminals belong in jail. Once free from the threat of prison, there is nothing to prevent a wrong doer from committing yet another crime. My bill will require record-keeping and reporting on participants in these federally funded pre-trial release programs, specifically whether the defendants have a history of criminal behavior, whether or not they actually appear for their trial, and whether they have ever failed to appear for trial in prior cases. Taxpayers deserve to know that their hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely, and that their communities are being protected.”
Mona K. Wood-Sword
Cell. (808) 218-5546