Bail Bond industry against abolishing bail in Washington state

Denny Behrend spends every afternoon at the King County Jail in downtown Seattle, offering bail money to people just arrested on suspicion of committing felony-level crimes.

“First and foremost, I want to say that bail works,” Behrend told KIRO 7 on Wednesday. “It’s something that’s been in the American criminal justice system virtually since the founding of our nation.”

Behrend, of Lacey O’Malley Bail Bonds, and Randy Bosley of Pacific Northwest Bail Bonding are both concerned that efforts to end the cash bail system will be successful in Washington state, as similar efforts have recently been in California and New Jersey.

Bosley claims crime in the Garden State has been on the uptick ever since New Jersey abolished cash bail in 2016.

“It was horrifying because people were just getting out of jail, and once they got out, they were repeating their crimes,” Bosley said. “The bad part was, their crimes were escalating, and it just started happening immediately” after New Jersey’s bail system reform, he claimed.

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Public safety is one of the most cited reasons for keeping cash bail in place because it requires money or assets as collateral for assurances a suspect will show up for court and not re-offend.

KIRO 7 has reported on many recent crimes where suspects released from jail without having to post bail continued to commit more crimes.

However, there are many people --- including the Seattle Seahawks' Doug Baldwin -- who believe the current bail system is unfair to minorities and the poor, providing them with fewer opportunities for release pending trial.

“The cash bail system is an antiquated system,” Baldwin said after visiting a Seattle courtroom in September. “We are waging a war on poor people when we should be waging a war on poverty.”

“We don’t want to say we disagree with Doug, but maybe we can have an open dialogue,” Bosley offered.

In addition to being a bail bond agent, Bosley is also the Washington State Bail Bonds Association Vice President and Board Director for Professional Bail Bonds of the United States. He said he reached-out to Baldwin after the football player's recent public statements about bail, offering to explain why he believes bail works for everyone, including African-Americans, like himself.

“I think I could share some insight with Doug because he and I have something in common,” Bosley said while pointing to the skin on his face.  “I have the experience to speak on it, and I would speak in favor of bail because of those experiences.”

“I really am an avid believer about how bail works, being a black individual,” Bosley told KIRO 7.  “I don’t think the system is unfair.”

Behrend added, for Baldwin “to go to court for two hours and then come out and make a statement like that, it would be like me watching a Seattle Seahawks game and saying ‘Doug, I have some ideas for how to run your routes.’”

Behrend and Bosley both say they welcome anything that improves the system, but don't believe abolishing bail altogether is the answer for Washington state.

“Justice is served when people come to court.  Bail works because it gets people back to court,” Behrend said, admitting that the potential loss of money can be a powerful incentive.

The two bail professionals also admit abolishing bail locally would most likely kill their industry and put them out of a job, but claim that’s not their only motivation for working to save it.