To the degree that the public is even minimally aware of how moneyed players in the prison-industrial complex push for extensive and harsh arrest laws, it is usually the private prison industry and prison guard unions that are pointed to as playing the lead roles in this nasty game. Job-protecting police unions and war-on-drug agencies play strong support roles. The role of bail bonders is virtually invisible to the public.
But the BBI has grown into quite a political force over four decades even as their individual operations are largely obscured behind contrasting popular images of mom and pop bail bonds storefronts or less-than-friendly outlaw bounty hunters. Currently, it is pushing conservative legislation by courting politicians via bipartisan campaign donations and lobbying efforts. It also plays a visible role in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – an influential right wing national group significantly funded by the oil magnate and far-right wing Koch Brothers. ALEC creates and then promotes “model legislation,” including, most famously, the controversial Stand Your Ground gun law and attacks on public employee unions.
One dramatic example of recent BBI activity is in the realm of pretrial services. These services mitigate jail and prison overcrowding through pretrial release based on factors other than one’s ability to post money bail, such as a detainee’s offense record, drug history and employment status.
Governor Brown lines up alongside Republicans to collect, with California, Florida and Texas as the top three BBI donor states. The bail industry has targeted such “no-bail-required” practices for hammer blows along with other modern reforms. These reforms tend toward reducing drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors that require no bail and favor treatment rather than jail. Many experts and the public at large regard these reforms as more sensible and more effective.
Other than the generalized and vast legalized political corruption and vote selling that results from the need to obtain campaign funds in America, there is no specific pattern that describes the many politicians who crash their own principles under bail industry pressures. These pols occupy the racial, ethnic, gender and regional spectrum. If you are stuck believing the paradigm that Democrats offer a progressive alternative to the drug war’s brutal mass incarceration policies – as opposed to Republican ideological commitment to being “tough on crime and drugs” – think again. In a time which demands alternatives to drug war decimation of nonwhite communities, many Democrats across the country line up alongside Republicans to collect, with California, Florida and Texas as the top three BBI donor states.