National Public Radio, in the last of a series, focuses on Broward County, Fl., to show the difficulties being encountered by the county-funded pretrial release program that gets people out of jail and keeps tabs on them using things like ankle bracelets, phone calls or drug testing. The program can’t handle many defendants anymore. “The bondsmen think pretrial is stealing their business,” says Judge John Hurley. How bail bonding became political in Broward has sent shock waves through pretrial programs across the country. In Broward, bondsmen pushed hard for a new county ordinance that limits the pretrial program.
Industry experts say powerful bail lobbying groups have begun using Broward as a road map of how to squash similar programs elsewhere, even though public records show the programs have saved taxpayers millions of dollars. Bail bondsman Wayne Spath makes no apologies for leading the charge against pretrial. 'We’re tenacious; we do our job,” Spath says. “People should not just be released from jail and get a free ride. I mean, this is the way the system’s got to work.” Spath argues that pretrial release costs taxpayers too much money. And, he says, it was hurting his business. So bondsmen did what any self-respecting private business group would do: They hired a lobbyist.