NCPA Study: Replace Probation And Parole System With Private Bail Bondsmen

DALLAS (June 7, 2000) - The nation's system of probation and parole should be replaced by a system similar to the use of private bail bondsmen for pretrial releases. That, according to an innovative new study by the National Center for Policy Analysis, could solve the problem of too few officers with too little incentive to handle the required caseloads.

"The current system barely hampers someone bent on a life of crime," said Dr. Morgan Reynolds, director of the NCPA's Criminal Justice Center and the study's author. "It erects small inconveniences in the criminal way of life."

Clearly, probation officers have more cases than they can effectively handle. According to one study, there are only 4,420 officers who actually supervise felons, making the average caseload 337 adult offenders per officer. Another study says the caseload is 117 offenders per officer.

  • 44 percent of criminals in prison were on parole or probation at the time of their conviction offense.
  • 42 percent of felons who completed their parole or release eventually return to prison or jail.
  • People on probation or parole annually commit an estimated 6,400 murders, 7,400 rapes and 10,400 assaults.

According to the study, the record of private bail agents shows the private market can more effectively keep track of criminals than their government counterparts. This is because they have a financial incentive, as they can only stay in business if by getting their charges to court on time.

  • According to the Department of Justice in 1992, only 15 percent of defendants released to private bail agent failed to appear in court, compared to 42 percent released for free to the government.
  • Only 3 percent of defendants released to private bail agents were fugitives at the end of one year, compared to 19 percent for free government bond releases.
  • Of felony defendants released to private bail agents, only 9 percent were rearrested for committing another crime during their release, compared to 16 percent for those released for free to the government.

"Lawbreakers need no-nonsense encouragement to follow the straight and narrow," said Reynolds.

Copying the success of the commercial bail system could lower recidivism and at the same time reduce costs to taxpayers. With their own money at risk, probationers, parolees, relatives and bond agents would have a serious financial incentive to supervise their charges and assure the fugitive rate would be low. This would reduce crime, save the taxpayers money and help restore confidence in the justice system.