One of the first things I noticed upon moving to Los Angeles was that in certain neighbourhoods of the city, bail bonds shops were everywhere. I would also see billboards, car wraps and newspaper ads for bail bonds, many of them weird and goofy, a major contradiction to the very serious business they were in. Sex and humour were both used liberally to sell a product to keep you out of jail and in debt. They especially stuck out to me because I didn’t even know what a bail bond actually was. Canada doesn’t have commercial bail bonds or insurance, everything is handled by the courts themselves, so seeing an entire industry profiting off incarceration and trials kind of freaked me out. VICE recently did an expose of the bail system in the US, and it show how creepy and anti-humanity this system is. The bail bonds system is making billions in profit each year for the insurance corporations which are its major backers. It seems like this system is just another example of the corrupt insurance system that permeates American society. Here’s a behind the scenes look at the bail system and how it impacts incarceration rates, and what it’s costing the American public. I also recommend this article for further reading about the history of the bail system in the US.
The US is the only first-world country that commercializes bail. The for-profit industry rakes in more than $2 billion annually in revenue. Most criminal defendants can’t pay the full bail amount and must either stay in jail or pay a 10 percent fee to secure a bond, which they won’t recoup even if found not guilty.