The Bail System And Bounty Hunters Keep Incarceration A Booming Business

pair of handcuffs
Zain Murdock
January 17, 2024

Criminal justice reform advocate Michael Jacobson once said, “Criminal-justice policy happens to be a field with one of the greatest disconnects between what we know and what we do.” 

That applies to the bail bounty hunter system - a Wild West-era business model.

When people can’t afford bail, they or their loved ones can pay a bondsman 10%. If they’re a no-show in court, bounty hunters, with the little-trained authority to wield weapons stalk and wreak havoc on people’s lives.

In the 1960s, less than 2% of people released without bail failed to attend court. Decades later, after skyrocketing incarceration rates and even more supporting research, this predation still exists. It also remains relevant at a cultural level, with media figures like ex-reality star, Dog the Bounty Hunter, who, an ex-reality star, who freely used both racial and sexual slurs.

About 15,000 bail bond agents cover over 2 million people yearly. Surety companies underwrite or accept liability for billions in bonds – and make a guaranteed profit.

Still, politicians condemn bail reform, blaming it for theft, violence, and crime rates.

That doesn’t change statistical evidence: most attend court dates without bail, and when they don’t, it’s often due to poverty, access, and awareness. A truly evolving “justice” system would have never brought bounty hunters into the 21st century.