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An eloquent editorial against Bail Reform

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

From a recent article in the Orange County Register: Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney for Orange County eloquently explains why Bail Reform is a bad idea. I’ve written about the negative aspects (not so eloquently) of bail reform, the posts are available here under blog posts.
“There have been two major cases in the news recently, both of which have garnered national media attention. In Orange County, Samuel Woodward was granted $5 million bail after he was charged with murdering 19-year-old Ivy League student Blaze Bernstein.
In Riverside County, the Louise and David Turpin are being held in lieu of $12 million bond each after they were charged with multiple counts of torture and child abuse and are accused of chaining and starving a dozen children.
California Senate Bill 10 would cause this complicated and expensive process: First, the defendants would have a right to request a pretrial risk assessment in which the risk assessment officer would determine what conditions of release should be recommended to the court. A judge must find there are no conditions of release that would reasonably ensure the Turpins’ and Woodwards’ appearances and specifically state why each specific condition recommended is not sufficient, then and only then, can the court set monetary bail.
Instead of the $5 million or $12 million bail noted above, the court would only be allowed to set bail within the defendants’ ability to pay. The prosecution would in theory be able to petition the court to set no bail, but we would be required to meet the very difficult burden of proving at a hearing: 1) the facts are evidence and the presumption is great; 2) there are no conditions that would reasonably assure the physical safety of “another person”; and 3) there is a “substantial likelihood” the defendant’s release would result in “great bodily injury” to another person. Without a specific threat from the defendant to a specific person, it’s difficult to envision how this burden could be met without a crystal ball.
This newspaper’s editorial board recently (“Cash bail doesn’t make California safer, it just crowds our jails,”) painted an inaccurate picture of California’s current bail system in support of SB10. The new law would install a revolving door at the back of our jails, create a presumption that the accused should be let out of custody and pose a substantial risk to public safety by creating new victims.
Under current law, bail serves as a promise to appear and allows for the release of a defendant in exchange for money, which the court holds until the disposition of the case. Bail creates incentives for persons around the defendant and the accused to come to court and stay crime-free. If the defendant does not appear, a bail bondsman will find the defendant and bring the individual to court at his/her expense, not the taxpayer. Bail schedules correlate with the severity of the offense:
• Murder: $1 million bail
• Human trafficking: $250,000 bail
• Forcible rape: $100,000
• General felony: $20,000 bail
The court may adjust the amount up or down in most cases.
In an unprecedented move, SB10 would eliminate fixed-bail schedules for all offenders, including those charged with serious and violent offenses. Misdemeanor offenders (with few exceptions) would automatically be released without having to post bail. SB10 would shift the judge’s primary consideration for determining bail from public safety to the defendant’s “presumption of innocence and the probability of appearing in court.” Monetary bail would be virtually eliminated and in the rare instance when bail is set, the judge would be required to set bail at the “least restrictive level necessary.”
Defendants charged with murder or rape would be allowed to request a pretrial services report, present and cross-examine witnesses (including victims) at a bail hearing and be considered for release. Defendants charged with human trafficking (including victims who are minors) would be entitled to a risk assessment and release pursuant to conditions within six hours. Human traffickers would not even be required to see a judge prior to being released. The expense the defendant is spared would immediately be placed upon the victims, their families and prosecutors, to keep serious and violent offenders in jail pre-trial. This proposed legislation also attacks criminal justice reform of Proposition 115 and Marsy’s Law.
To further the narrative that innocent individuals are “stuck in jail” due to inability to post bail, your editorial cites statistics from 2015, claiming one-third of all felony arrests in California result in charges never being filed, charges being dismissed or acquittal. This figure is deceptive, because it does not account for hundreds of cases that are consolidated, arrests that result in probation violations rather than new charges, or deferred judgments (in which the defendant earns a dismissal over time by participating in a program and remaining crime free). Contrary to the paper’s claim, financial solvency is not the “final determinant” of whether or not he or she remains behind bars. Charges are filed after police investigations, after probable cause has been established and sworn under penalty of perjury by the arresting agency and the case has been reviewed by a prosecutor who bears an ethical burden to only file a case he or she believes can and should be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury.
Finally, SB10 would hurt taxpayers by adding a costly layer of unaccountable bureaucracy by requiring each county to establish a pretrial services agency to conduct a report with recommendations presuming release. Although some counties are presently testing a pretrial release program, in most cases it is being conducted on a provisional basis and is typically limited to certain offenses or categories of defendants, not serious or violent felony offenders.
Risk determination must be managed through a verified risk assessment tool with evaluations conducted by a sitting judge accountable to the public and not relegated to backroom bureaucrats operating outside the presence of those entrusted to uphold justice. In addition, adequate resources must be made available to impose release conditions calculated to protect the public and ensure reappearance such as GPS monitoring, staffing to monitor home and work visits and searches, Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring as well as regular drug and alcohol testing. There must also be a meaningful process must also be in place to revoke release upon violation of terms or release or re-offense.
Our first priority must be public safety.”
Tony Rackauckas is the district attorney of Orange County.

Update on New Jersey Bail Fail

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

We know that our admiring public has been waiting anxiously for an updated blog post on SB10, the California Senate Bill trying to eliminate bail and bail bondsmen in Orange County and throughout the Golden State. Last we heard, Governor Jerry Brown has decided that it will be a priority for 2018 (but if his term ends this year, it would seem that it’ll be someone else’s problem).
Proponents of the bill, and critics of the bail system as it currently stands complain that bail is biased against the poor, that the rich can buy their way to freedom in the State’s legal system. (I don’t know, how did that work out for Phil Spector?)
We compared the proposal to eliminate bail and bonds with the results of New Jersey’s attempt at the same thing, pointing out the flaws and complaints by the public at an idea whose time never came.
Here’s an excerpt from an article by Jeff Clayton, Executive Director, of The American Bail Coalition:
“The New Jersey Courts issued a report yesterday touting the success of the implementation of bail reform in New Jersey, a cooperative project of the State Courts and Chris Christie administration in order to ignore the will of the voters, take out cost-free bail bonding companies in the process, and move to a costly money-free system that was contemplated to be the new Shangri-la of pretrial justice. It would be a monument to fairness on a hill that would shine like justice. Now, unfortunately, that very money-free system, according to the report, is simply going to run out of cash.
New Jersey Courts Report to the Governor and Legislature
The original goals of bail reform were a combination of the following: (1) maintain or improve the rate of failing to appear in court; (2) improve community safety by reducing crimes while on bail through release on supervision and preventative detention; (3) make the system more fair by having less persons wait in jail pending trial; (4) reduce discrimination; and, (5) save money.
On the issue of jail population reductions, the spin-machine is already going over at the State Courts. The Courts take credit for two-full years of jail population reductions before bail reform was implemented: 2015 and 2016.
Let’s examine the actual numbers. The adjusted pretrial jail population fell in 2017 by 20.28% according to the Court’s numbers. Yet, in 2016, the year prior to the implementation of bail reform, the jail population fell 20.69%. There is no evidence to indicate that bail reform, implemented January 1, 2017, is the cause of this trend. In fact, the Court’s numbers show that the total number of complaint-warrant cases dropped by 8.57%, which alone would account for 42% of the drop in jail populations the Courts are trying to take credit for. The Drug Policy Alliance’s analysis wasn’t much better on this point: “The data shows that in just the first year of implementation the jail population has declined by 20 percent since January 2017, and 35 percent compared to this time in 2017.”
Are defendants who are released showing up for court under the new system? The report is silent on that point. No data on warrants. No data on failures to appear as required in court. No data on whether the summons cases show up. Of course, it does not sound like this should be a problem based on the money to improve the State Court computer system: “The successful implementation of CJR is due in no small part to the transformative shift from a paper-driven process to one that is fully electronic.” In fact, the State Courts spent filing fee revenue collected to do a system redesign that would allow for “[a]utomating data collection and data sharing.” Yet, no data.
What about improving community safety—has the new system reduced the numbers and severity of crimes committed on bail like it promised? Curiously, no ink was spilled in the report on this point either. We have to ask one simple question: where’s the beef? Yet, according to the Courts, in a classic tap-dance pivot of their message using nebulous and metric-free indicators that are more akin to a warm fuzzy, “This result is a more comprehensive, reasonable, and most importantly, a fairer system of pretrial release.”
Did the new system reduce discrimination? Any assessment would be pure speculation. It was easy in 2013 to issue a report calling the old system racist. Yet, today, there is no data on how preventative detention is being used, upon whom it is being used, and whether it is any of “comprehensive, reasonable or fair.” In addition, the Arnold Foundation’s risk assessment tool has not been audited by anyone but the Arnold Foundation, and there is absolutely no report or other information that would allow anyone to conclude the system is race and gender neutral much less “comprehensive, reasonable and fair.” The Arnold Foundation has been criticized as lacking transparency, and I would challenge anyone in New Jersey to try and conduct an analysis of whether the Arnold tool works and meets whatever requirements you may have in terms of being bias free—you cannot do it if you wanted to. This is all pursuant to a contract signed with the State that considers the Arnold Foundation’s interest in the algorithm as a trade secret. Also, it is unfair to conclude that the the Arnold Foundation is neutral—they have filed a brief in favor of the no-money bail system implemented by the State Courts and Chris Christie in a federal court challenge brought to New Jersey’s no-money bail system.

Regardless of how we may feel about it, New Jersey’s no-money bail system is going to run out of money. In fact, the total cost of implementing the system to state and local governments, according to the Chris Christie Administration, was succinctly estimated in four words: “We have no idea.” As noted in the report, financial bail conditions, intended to fill the gap in the middle of the system (below preventative detention but above some level of low-risk) were nearly wiped off the map—97 bail bonds were posted throughout the year. As the report notes:

Current projections indicate that the annual expenses for the Pretrial Services Program will exceed the annual fee-increase revenues beginning in calendar year 2018. This substantial annual structural deficit will not be fully felt until 2019 or 2020 because of the revenues that accumulated prior to the January 2017 program implementation date. However, the projected annual deficits will result in the Pretrial Services Program component of the 21st Century Justice Improvement Fund being in a negative balance as of late fiscal year 2020-early fiscal year 2021, with that negative balance increasing substantially each year thereafter.

Not to mention the unknown, unfunded burden on local governments, which has been estimated to be around another $50 million annually, to fund the system and fill-in where the incentives of bail were lost and supposed to be replaced by costly government programs.

Of course, this was a classic justice re-investment initiative. From the savings, we were supposed to invest in prevention and other alternatives. So not only is there not savings to reinvest, the report also notes that “The lack of available and affordable community-based substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, and housing assistance programs has been a significant challenge for Pretrial Services, and it will continue absent additional sustainable funding.” Perhaps the $135 million in Court fees and $50 million spent at the local level might have gone a long way to meet those needs without the costly bail reform.
Enter the Judiciary’s Office of Communications and Community Relations . They have been setting twitter afire with boasts of their rare but robust success on bail reform. In fact, the Courts have devoted significant efforts in publicly trumpeting their success. If only Justin Timberlake had this sort of promotional capacity and could unleash such tornadic tweet-storms. Of course, the State Courts’ arrangement with the Arnold Foundation, the proprietor of the criticized-as-lacking-transparency bail risk computer used in New Jersey, if anything like the arrangements we have seen in other states, requires the State Courts to have a media plan to toot their own horn—regardless of whether there is success or not.
The report indeed confirms this—the Judiciary “implemented [in 2015] a comprehensive outreach plan to inform and educate all stakeholders and the public regarding CJR.” The plan included “educating the media” in addition to a Bar Association Journal article campaign by sitting judges. In fact, the State Courts have plenty of time to sell their wares to “national newspapers and television programs such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and PBS News Hour, as well as from the editorial boards of New Jersey’s leading newspapers, including the Star Ledger and The Record.” So it is no surprise we are seeing this level of horn-tooting. The self-promotional campaign of the successes of bail reform was not only pre-planned regardless of whether it worked or not, but now has actually become part of the success. In other words, one metric to measure our success is that we convinced everyone that it was working, so it must be working.

While the State Courts are making continuing videos about their successes, touting their half-baked statistics, likely contemplating a new TV studio to make higher quality self-promotional videos with greater court-swagger, and of course running a significant self-aggrandizing media and social-media campaign that supports the social meddling of admitted criminal-justice money-baller and former-Enron executive and billionaire John Arnold’s secret New Jersey bail computers, it might be time for someone to ask a simple question—DID IT WORK? We just don’t know, but if we get on twitter long enough, we can probably continue to indoctrinate ourselves into thinking it did without ever having seen the numbers.”
So if it’s still not working in the Garden State, what makes California think it would work here?

Die Bill, Die!

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Die Bill, Die! No silly, I’m not proposing to murder someone named William. I’m referring to California Senate Bill 10, affectionately known as SB10, which is attempting to eliminate bail and bondsman as an industry throughout the state.

Last we checked it was sent to Appropriations for further study. As of September 6, 2017, several amendments to the original bill were added and it was sent back to Appropriations. Sheesh, can’t they just let this thing die?

We’ve talked about this in past blog posts here. You only have to look at New Jersey’s current state of affairs regarding repeat criminal offenders to see the results of eliminating bail.
A New Jersey Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak wrote an impassion letter to the members of the California assembly public safety Committee before their hearing on July 11, 2017 on SB10. It was sent to every member, describing the failure of the elimination of bail in his state. Senator Robert Hertzberg, one of the authors of SB10 advised the members of the committee to ignore the letter and that New Jersey was actually saving money under the bail elimination process (talk about fake news!).

New Jersey Judge Glenn Grant was quoted as saying “[the new system]does not eliminate the risk that
defendants will fail to appear in court or commit new crimes while out on release.

One of the supposed reasons for the bill is that bail bonds as they exist in their current form are discriminatory toward minorities. Let’s listen to the words of Rev. Jesse Lee Petersen, an African American who testified in front of the Assembly Public Safety Commission regarding the consequences of passing SB10:

“In the Assembly Public Safety Committee, the authors of Senate Bill 10 – State Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) – spoke about the need to eliminate a paid bail system. While I couldn’t believe what was coming out of their mouths, I was even more disturbed by what wasn’t said.
In the “People’s House,” Hertzberg and Bonta described the arrested, charged, bailed and those sitting in jail as the victims of our society, and the rest of us law-abiding citizens as the oppressors. In their version of the world, the authors infer that the police, prosecutors and judges are intentionally limiting the freedoms of our poor minority communities. Given this faulty premise, they hold up SB 10 as some sort of heaven-sent solution, which in reality will automatically release the vast majority of those arrested for crimes back into our communities.
In “my house” we don’t have gated communities. Our windows have bars on them – not for decoration, but protection. In “my house,” crime is rampant. It is a place where people are afraid to report crimes, even when they know the perpetrator, because of the reprisal from the local gangs. In “my house,” it is a struggle just to survive.
In “my house” there are over 450 active gangs, with a combined membership of 45,000 individuals. In “my house” there are 900 rapes, 40,000 thefts, 8,200 burglaries, and 140 yearly homicide cases. “
Rev. Petersen lives in Los Angeles, but the numbers ( more about skewed/inflated numbers in a bit) are the same for many counties and cities throughout California: since the passage of Prop. 47, crime is on the rise. ” (something else we’ve talked about here) As he further points out:
“It was very clear to me that the chair and members of the committee have lost touch with the gritty reality of our communities. You can’t just read a book, article, or statistics and understand what is happening on the streets of our black and Hispanic neighborhoods. You need to live it and be around it to know the struggles are real.
Missing from Hertzberg and Bonta’s speeches were the voices of the rape victims, the burglarized, the bullied and the intimidated. They ignore the concerns of the good and decent Hispanics and black folk trying to stay safe in high-crime neighborhoods. The people being released from jail won’t be going back into Hertzberg and Bonta’s neighborhoods, they will be returning to “my house.”

SB 10 was approved by the committee, because in the “People’s House,” our jails are filled with poor people who are only victims. Yet in “my house,” the communities are filled with people who commit crimes, who then get out of incarceration and then threaten the already frayed fabric of our inner cities.

SB 10 may make our detached legislators feel good. But rather than addressing true racial inequalities, including the disproportionate criminal victimization of innocent people, this misguided and simplistic measure only perpetuates hopelessness and the deterioration of minority neighborhoods in urban California.”

A study was conducted In 2012 by the ACLU for L.A County’s jail system. (The numbers in 2017 are vastly different). The study showed 87% of the Pre-Trial Arrestees in custody were due to “non-financial holds.” Only 13% are in custody because they cannot afford their bail. L.A. County Sheriff’s Custody Report released in 2016 shows less than 5% are in jail for misdemeanor low level crimes and remain in custody possibly due to inability to purchase a bail bond. As we’ve stated here on our website and in previous blog posts, Orange County Bail Bonds is always willing to work with our clients to offer the best rates available and financing if necessary where appropriate.

New Jersey’s new system determines risk assessment by a computer driven algorithm (wow, really?) which has allowed those committing serious felonies to be released into the community to commit new crimes with no guarantee that they will even show up for their court appearances.

Below is a list of names and phone numbers of committee members. If your public safety is a concern for yourself and your families, we encourage you to call and make your concerns known. They may not want to acknowledge it, but they are your public servants, elected to represent your best interests.
ASSEMBLY APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (Chair) (916) 319-2080
Frank Bigelow (916) 319-2005
Richard Bloom (916) 319-2050
Raul Bocanegra (916) 319-2039
Rob Bonta (916) 319-2018
William P. Brough (916) 319-2073
Ian C. Calderon (916) 319-2057
Ed Chau (916) 319-2049
Susan Talamantes Eggman (916) 319-2013
Vince Fong (916) 319-2034
Laura Friedman (916) 319-2043
James Gallagher (916) 319-2003
Eduardo Garcia (916) 319-2056
Adam C. Gray (916) 319-2021
Al Muratsuchi (916) 319-2066
Jay Obernolte (916) 319-2033
Eloise Gomez Reyes (916) 319-2047

A 3.5 Billion Dollar Mistake

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Once again the status of bail bonds as we’ve come to know them is in jeopardy in the state of California. As you’ll recall from a previous post here (Is Prop 47 a Flop?) statistics have shown that doing away with the need for bail bonds by virtue of releasing arrested persons on their own recognizance has backfired.

More people are back out in the communities committing repeat crimes sometimes even before their first court appearance on their original arrest. Now there is
legislation pending in the California legislature in the form of AB42 in the House of Representatives and SB10 in the Senate.

AB42 was recently defeated (narrowly) in the House, mostly due to strong opposition from the California Police Chief’s Assoc., Peace Officers Research Association of California ,and the California District Attorneys Association. The support of Crime Victims United, the California Judges Association as well as some lobbying from the bail industry helped also.

The Senate’s bill (SB10 is basically the same wording) is still pending. For those unaware of the bills’ intent, let me explain. AB42/SB10 are trying to
eliminate Bail and bail bonds as a means to set free arrested persons (pretrial release) claiming that they are discriminatory. The author of AB42 claims that the current bail system is broken and punishes people simply for being poor. He goes on to state that freedom from jail stays is linked directly to personal wealth, and therefore ignores public safety and flight risk. He believes that due to the high cost of bail, many people end up losing their jobs, homes, and even families while staying in jail awaiting judgement in court. We’ve talked about this in a previous post here (“Is it a crime to be poor?”). Just to refresh, here at Orange County Bail Bonds we offer very competitive (low) rates as well as financing plans for qualified clients, so that bail and bond costs should not be a determining factor in having a loved one released.

In an article for Law360, Quentin L. Kopp, a retired San Mateo Superior Court Judge who served 12 years in the California State Senate and 15 years on the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, points out the financial devastation and bureaucratic nightmare this proposed legislation would create. Judge Kopp states that the estimated annual cost of this program would exceed $3.5B! That’s right –$3.5 BILLION for a service that is currently covered, tax-free, by the bail bond industry. Do we really want to replace a successful private industry, that supports thousands of people and their families, with another government bureaucracy? Who’s only goal is to release criminals from custody!

The author of AB42 also states that people locked up in jail are more likely than not to accept a plea deal, in essence pleading guilty to a crime they may not even have committed, solely to get out of jail.  According to the author, ”money bail reform by other states, combined with national and California-specific research on the issue, supports a pretrial system that is not regressive and further strengthens public safety.”

I would respond to that comment by pointing out New Jersey’s attempt at bail reform where the state passed legislation in an effort to relieve overcrowding in their jails. (hmm… is anyone else reminded of Prop 47 here in California?). Enacted in January of  this year, after just a month, state officials touted the new law as “effective”. But wait, in as little as two months later, citizens are in an uproar over the apparent “ catch and release” system that is in play. Several burglars and sex offenders have been let go under the new law, only to return to commit new crimes in the communities. People are rightfully complaining that their feeling of public safety is being jeopardized.

Countless interviews reveal heartbroken victims of often the same perpetrators who have been released while awaiting trial for a previous arrest.

As for the claim that it will save the government money, in New Jersey, courts are now open on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as prosecutor’s offices which have to be available 24/7.

The Orange County courthouses were closing every third Friday of each month to ostensibly save money in the face of a massive state budget deficit. It seems unlikely that they would reverse this in order to stay open on weekends to satisfy the requirement of an arrested person quickly being determined as eligible for an out on own recognizance release instead of bail on bond.

As far as the discrimination factor, who would be the person determining someone’s eligibility? The language of AB42 proposes the establishment of a pretrial services agency whose responsibility would include gathering information about recently arrested persons, conducting pretrial risk assessments, preparing recommendations to the courts tailored to each individual, and providing pretrial services and supervision to persons on pretrial release. The courts already have a well-established, successful pretrial release service program that has been in place since for over 30 years.
Saving the government money? Possibly, but at whose expense? Sounds like a taxpayer added burden, don’t you think? Bondsmen like Orange County Bail Bonds
provide these type of services to the public at no additional taxpayer (or government) cost.

Back to the discrimination factor. It would be up to a human being to make a judgement call on whether a defendant is “qualified” to be released without a cash
bail or bond. Of course there are (widely open to interpretation) guidelines, but “to err is to be human”, the potential for mistakes to be made is huge. Some of the
language of the bill regarding the pretrial services agency specifies “immediate” transmission of a pretrial services report that would include recommendations to the court. It begs the question: how “immediate” would a report be processed if someone is arrested and booked into the Orange County Jail at 2:00a.m.? With a bail bond, that person would not be waiting on a court decision many hours later, but would probably already be free to be able to see their family, go to a job, or contact legal representation.

Other language in the proposed bill states that when someone is released before being arraigned, either they or the prosecutor can file a motion requesting an amendment to the release order by alleging that circumstances have changed, and requesting additional or different conditions of release at the time of
arraignment. Wait, what? Can you see a defendant complaining, “I don’t like the color of my ankle monitor, it clashes with my outfit”. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but the point being that the language could allow for abuse of the system by either party.

What to do to resolve the problem you may ask? Well, contrary to some legislators’ opinions, the bail bond system is not broken, and is not discriminatory. There is an organized resistance on social media (#NOSB10) basically asking the public to contact their legislators to request that they vote NO on this bill in the Senate which is basically the same as the House bill AB42 which was defeated.

Remember, Orange County Bail Bonds is here for you and your family 24/7 if the need should ever occur.

The History of Theo Lacy and Orange County’s Jails

Monday, September 19th, 2016

theo-lacy-on-a-horse-orange county-jails-history

Theophilus “Theo” Lacy,  was a farmer, stable operator, and former Santa Ana town treasurer. He was also Orange County’s second (1891-95) and fourth (1899-1911) sheriff. Because the county was principally agricultural and sparsely populated, however, Lacy didn’t have much to do other than chase vagrants, look into an (infrequent) fight or robbery, and oversee the simple jail. Theo Lacy died in June 1918, as one of the county’s best-known citizens. Today, one of Orange County’s modern jails is named after the Lacy family.

santa-ana-first-jail-orange-county

The Spurgeon Square Jail, aka “Lacy’s Hotel,” 1897-1924

Today, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department oversees three jails, with a daily inmate population generally averaging about 6,800. At the first of August, 1889, when Orange County was carved out of Los Angeles County, OC had not only no jail and no inmates, but also no county offices of any kind. So the county rented fourteen rooms in Santa Ana for a dollar a year, including a sheriff’s quarters at 302½ East Fourth Street. That took care of the office shortage, but there was still the jail problem. So jeweler Joseph H. Brunner offered the dark, dungeon-like basement of his building at 116½ East Fourth Street in Santa Ana. It was 30 feet long, extending partially under a sidewalk; 10 feet wide; and 10 feet to the ceiling with scant ventilation, double iron doors, and was known as “Brunner’s Basement.” “I have been in the basement,” an unfortunate scoundrel would bemoan. Following, then, is the chronology of Orange County jails:

Brunner’s Basement, 1889-1890

The “First Sycamore Street Jail,” 1890-1897

The Spurgeon Square Jail, aka “Lacy’s Hotel,” 1897-1924

The “Second Sycamore Street Jail,” aka “Old Sycamore,” 1924-1968

The Central Jails Complex (one jail each, for Men, Women), 1968-present; the Theo Lacy Facility, aka “The Branch,” 1960-present; the Intake Release Center, 1988; and the James A. Musick Facility, aka “The Farm,” 1963 (technically the IRC and Central Jails Complex are the same facility, located at 500 Flower St. in Santa Ana)

The subterranean Brunner’s Basement, clearly a stopgap measure, was in use only from August 1889 to May 1890 (although there are vague records of an unnamed “basement” lockup used for intoxicated persons, back in the late 1870s, before the county existed. This may have been a Santa Ana city jail). With the first county jail came the first jailbreak, in November 1889 when four of the eight prisoners manually threw a lock bolt and strolled out. Sheriff Richard T. Harris thought it over, surmised that the escapees “were well on their way to San Diego” by now, and good riddance. Saved the county 40 cents a day to feed them, anyway.

In any event, that 1889 “walk-away” jailbreak meant it was time for Orange County to have a real jail, so $4,000 was allocated for a new facility on Sycamore Street between Second and Third Streets, which opened in May 1890. Sometimes called the “First Sycamore Street Jail,” this was a small brick building containing three iron cells. It had its own rock pile next door, where the prisoners “made little ones out of big ones.” There was said to be no fence, just a ball-and-chain for each guest.

Although there is no record of a break-out from this jail, there was, unfortunately, one break-in, and it is still to the county’s great regret. Sheriff Theo Lacy had only two deputies in 1892, one who stayed in the office and one who oversaw the jail. (There was no such thing as routine patrol; officers went out only when summoned.) Among the prisoners was ranch worker Francisco Torres, who had used an ax to kill a well-liked local ranch foreman, and then fled to Escondido, where he was arrested. Sheriff Lacy retrieved Torres by train, but the sheriff had heard murmurings of a lynching. Accordingly, he ordered the train to stop early as it entered Santa Ana, and he whisked the prisoner to the jail. Still concerned at the growing restive sentiment, Lacy asked the County Supervisors for funds to transfer Torres to the Los Angeles jail for safekeeping. The supervisors responded by authorizing an additional guard instead. On August 20, 1892, a quiet, orderly mob broke open an iron jail door, shoved Deputy Robert Cogburn aside, removed Torres, and strung him up from a telegraph pole at Fourth and Sycamore streets.

Along about now (date uncertain), two inmates using a jackknife and a bucket dug their way out of the jail and slipped away, taking the jail blankets with them. The fleeing blanket-thieves split up but were captured. At some point, two other men burglarized a blacksmith’s shop, and stole tools that were then used to break into the jail and free about five vagrants. They were all captured, but then one of them took off again. Next, a group of prisoners removed metal bars from a furnace, and then, with a knife and two forks, dug themselves out. Such unseemly events were beginning to wear thin with the public, and in 1893 the Supervisors were forced to begin considering a new jail.

By 1897, the (slowly) growing Orange County required its third jail upgrade in eight years. A land parcel in the 200 block of Santa Ana Boulevard was purchased for $8,000, and $23,000 was allocated for a three-story lockup to be named Spurgeon Square Jail. It was better known as “Lacy’s Hotel,” named after Sheriff Lacy, whose family resided in, and oversaw, the lockup. The fortress-like Lacy’s Hotel, the first building in Spurgeon Square and soon to be joined next door by the grand old red sandstone courthouse, which elegantly survives today, was the county’s jailhouse for 27 years.

The fourth Orange County Jail and Sheriff’s Office, “Old Sycamore,” was constructed at 615 North Sycamore Street in Santa Ana in 1924 and remained in use for 44 years. (Orange County gets high mileage out of its jails.) It had an initial capacity of 260 inmates, but soon surpassed that number, as Orange County jails have tendency to do (and which for decades has drawn Grand Jury attention). In the early 1930s, crowding necessitated adding a fourth floor (“The Penthouse”) to Old Sycamore.

Old Sycamore closed in 1968, upon completion of the $10.4 million Central Jails complex in Santa Ana at 550 North Flower Street. Twenty years later, the biggest aggravated jailbreak in OC Sheriff history occurred when five men rappelled four stories down from the Men’s Central Jail roof, and disappeared. Unlike the four-man jail walk-away of 1889, however, this time the escapees were pursued, although it took six months (and help from the America’s Most Wanted TV show) to catch the last one. Rappelling remains the favored modern method of busting out of the Men’s Central Jail. On January 22, 2016, three violent and dangerous prisoners rappelled off the jail’s roof after cutting through multiple layers of metal, wriggling through a plumbing tunnel, evading barbed wire, sliding four stories down a bedsheet rope, and disappearing. Authorities said the trio had been working at it for weeks, even months. The escapees’ absence was not noted for fully 16 hours. The escapees fled to Northern California. One promptly returned to Orange County and surrendered, but thanks to alert citizens—and a $150,000 reward—the other two were captured in San Francisco within a week. The still-publicly-unannounced source of their cutting tools was a sizable exasperation for sheriffs’ officials. When Old Sycamore was torn down in 1973, an old ball and chain was discovered hidden away in its attic—obviously not in use in 1889, 1988, and 2016! The artifact is now retired to the Sheriff’s Archives.(1157)

Orange County Bail Bonds Payment Plans and Financing

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016


When seeking bail bond services in Orange County, you should understand how much it will ultimately cost you and how this process works. Generally speaking, you will be charged a rate of between 8 and 10 percent on any bail bond in California. This rate is applied to the amount of money that it costs to get you or your loved one out of jail. Any rate that falls beyond those parameters is actually illegal and, therefore, should be avoided.

Orange County Bail Bonds charges the bare minimum of 8 percent, so you won’t find a legal option anywhere in the state that costs less. We are also willing to work with all of our client to ensure that you can afford our bail bonds services.

The problem, however, is that even the lowest possible rate could cost you a fair amount of money if you have a high bail amount. Luckily, our bail bond company can look at your situation and come up with a payment plan that allows you to receive your bond and pay us in installments.

Make sure that you understand exactly what you are getting into before you begin, since your freedom could be at stake. Here’s how our financing and payments plans work:

Coming Up with a Down Payment

To start with, we will likely ask you for a down payment. The amount of the down payment is entirely dependent on the amount of the bail bond service you are applying for. This money shows us that you are committed to working with us and that it isn’t solely our money that is being used to get you free.

The down payment is important because it ensures that we can mitigate some of our risk in this situation. For example, if your loved one has bail set at $2,000 and doesn’t show up for his or her court date, we are held responsible and won’t receive our money back. By asking for a down payment from you, it ensures that you share some of this burden with us.

Contact us at 800-422-4540 and a bail bondsman will discuss the specifics regarding our down payment policy. Once we have a chance to discuss the situation, we can come up with a solution that suits your needs.

Finding Multiple Signers

Next, we will ask that you have multiple co-signers on the bond. Preferably, these signers will be your mom, dad, siblings, or other family members. Having these other signers on the bond gives us more assurance that you will show up to your court dates and won’t try to run on your charges.

The reasons for having multiple signers involved is that it also helps eliminate some of the risk on our end. You don’t know us and we don’t know you, but by having someone that knows you very well take on some responsibility for your whereabouts, we can, once again, eliminate some of the risk that is involved with providing our Orange County bail bonds service.

You can think of this as being similar to asking for a loan when you don’t have an adequate credit rating. In this situation, you might ask your parents to help you out by co-signing on the loan. Creditors do this type of thing all the time to lessen their risk, which is why we take the same strategy.

Having Collateral

There is also a chance that we will ask you for collateral, particularly if the bond is for a significant amount of money. What this means is that if you are unable to pay the fees that are associated with the bond or if you skip out on your court date and we lose the bond money, that we will be able to recoup this money by seizing some of your assets.

Keep in mind that we don’t ask for collateral in every situation. It all comes down to the situation at hand, which we evaluate on a case by case basis. Generally, if the amount of the bond poses us with a significant risk, we will ask for collateral to offset some of the risk on our end.

The items that we will ask for collateral depend on the amount of the bond. For higher bail amounts, your car, boat, or even your house could be used as collateral. In the end, our need for collateral is dependent on a number of different factors, so discuss your situations with us beforehand to have a clearer view of what is required.

Now What?

Once you have met all of our criteria, there is a good chance that we’ll be able to offer you a payment plan. Like everything else, the plan will depend on the situation at hand and the amount of the bond. This is another situation where you will have to give us a call to see how our financing options work.

Rest assured, however, we are aware of how difficult this situation is for you and will do our best to give you the leeway that you need to get out of jail immediately.

Your payment plan will work similarly to any other loan that you might take out. You will have a payment schedule that you must meet in order to keep your loan in good standing. If you fail to make payments on your loan, you could lose the bond or have to deal with penalties.

What We Can Do For You?

Our goal here is to make this situation as painless as possible for you. We are aware that dealing with legal difficulties is never easy and that there is a fair amount of stress that goes along with it. As a result, we look forward to helping you out and making this situation run as smoothly as possible.

We have a wide variety of payment plan options available, so check with us at 800-422-4540 and we can discuss a plan that best works for you. We are a family-owned bail bonding company and we pride ourselves on our ability to make things work for individuals who need our assistance.

How Does a Bail Bond Work in Orange County?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

When dealing with a bail bonding company, it is best that you are aware of the procedure and the steps that you must follow in order to complete this transaction. The goal here is to help you or your loved one get out of jail while awaiting a court date and bail bonds companies are here to help. Make sure that you know exactly what you are getting into before you begin and call Orange County Bail Bonds at 800-422-4540 if you have any questions about the process.

From start to finish, the process shouldn’t take very long at all. You will start by seeing a judge and having a bail amount set. From there, you can start working with a local bail bond company to negotiate your release. We have convenient locations within minutes of all the major jails in Orange County, allowing us to get started on your case right away, even in the middle of the night.

How is the Bail Amount is Set

Before you can seek a bail bond, you must know how much your bail has been set at. This is done when you first see a judge after being arrested. The judge will inform you of the amount that will be required to set you free after hearing the charges against you.

The amount is generally dependent on the crime that you have been accused of and your criminal history. Keep in mind that the judge can make the bond amount prohibitive or deny bail altogether if it is determined that you are a serious flight risk or if you have been accused of a major crime.

In most situations, however, your bail will be reasonable and Orange County Bail Bonds will be able to help you. Once we are contacted, we will let you know how much you have to come up with right away. We will also help you through the rest of the release process.

Contacting a Bail Bonds Company

Once you know how much it will take to get you out of jail, you can have a loved one get a hold of a bail bonds company in Orange County. This bail bondsman will then look into the situation and see if you can be helped. Once again, the vast majority of people who have been arrested can negotiate a release in this manner and we will assist you along the way.

Orange County Bail Bonds is open 24 hours per day and seven days a week, so you won’t have to spend time waiting for us to open in the morning to get started. The goal is to get you released as quickly as possible, which is why one of our team members will get started on this process immediately after you get in touch with us.

Getting Released From Jail

If it is determined that the bail bond service provider can help you, the necessary arrangements will be made to get you out of jail. There is a fair amount of paperwork that will have to be filled out, but since we are usually able to get started on it right away, you shouldn’t have to stay in jail for too long.

We do charge a down payment that you must come up with prior to being released. This money is used as a guarantee that you are willing to work with us and are going to show up for your court appearance.

Paying the Premium

One thing to remember is that our bail bonds service isn’t free. There is a premium that is associated with receiving this bail bond that your indemnitor must agree to pay. This amount is usually a percentage of the total bail amount.

In California, the most you can be charged is 10 percent of your bail amount, while the least you can be charged is 8 percent. We are proud to say that we charge the absolute minimum, so you won’t find lower rates elsewhere.

We also offer payment plans if you are unable to come up with the premium and cut us a check right away. Speak with one of our family members to discuss the payment plan options that we have available.

The Role of the Guarantor

You must have a guarantor sign some paperwork before you can be released from jail. This individual will usually be a close friend or family member. The person who signs this paperwork is responsible for making sure that you show up for your court appearance.

We might also take collateral from your guarantor to ensure that you show up for court. If you fail to show up, we will then have the right to seize assets from either you or your guarantor.

Finally, the guarantor is on the hook for the entire bond amount if you decide not to show up for your court appearance. Since this bond is usually a significant amount of money, it is in your best interests to show up for court and in your guarantor’s best interests to make sure that you don’t run out on your charges.

How We Operate

As a family owned business, we pride ourselves on our ability to work directly with our clients to come up with a solution to their problems. We are aware that getting arrested is a stressful experience and it can do a great deal of damage to your life, both long and short term. For this reason, we work quickly and discreetly, so that your legal woes will have as little impact on your life as possible.

If you ever find yourself being charged with a crime and are in need of some immediate help, contact Orange County Bail Bonds a call at 800-422-4540. We will get the ball rolling on your release right away, giving you the best chance of getting your life back. Our team has helped thousands of accused individuals get out of jail and we are certain that we can do the same for you if given the chance.

Orange County Jails More Dangerous Than Ever

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Pressure has continued to build up in local jails in Orange County after changes which were introduced in order to reduce the population in state prisons. The state law which is referred to as AB109 required non serious and low level offenders to be sentenced to county jails instead of state prison in order to serve their sentence, no matter how long the sentence might be. Even though this was intended to reduce the population of prisoners in state prisons, it has had a very negative impact on county jails.

County jails have become crowded with serious offenders who are violent and stay longer than for which the jails were originally designed . Gang tensions have become the order of the day in OC jails and even treatments which were not previously needed in these facilities have become a norm. Some of these inmates who are transferred to county jails are more experienced living behind state bars. They bring with them this experience and impose gang politics in county jails. This could explain why the smuggling of drugs and contraband has escalated in county jails. The situation has become risky for not only the inmates but the guards as well.

The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs recently reported an increase in assaults among inmates from the beginning of 2012 (which is around the period the new state laws were introduced). There were 272 assaults recorded in county jails in 2011. From the start of 2012 until June 26, 277 assaults were already recorded in county jails. This shows that the transformation occurred within just a few months. The dynamics have changed, says Sgt Gary Tinoco. These numbers clearly show that the inmates are more at risk after the realignment.

The inmates are not only more violent, but they are also staying longer. County jails were previously used to host inmates who were waiting for trial or convicted of less serious offenses that took no more than a year. However, this changed after the realignment. The jails are now housing convicts who have been sentenced for up to 6 years.

According to the supervisors of some county jails, the inmates are settling in their bunks and personalizing their little spaces. They are trying to establish their home in that limited space. Officials say that the incidents of drugs being found inside the jails has increased significantly and most of these drugs are found in mail. In order to reduce this, some officials in the sheriff’s department are looking for systems that reduce contraband in jails like using emails instead of mail.

Some officials have even admitted to having used a higher security inmate to work in the jail kitchen which enhances security concerns. County jails have become homes for sophisticated convicts. Some of them are even trying to stress their dominance by taxing their fellow inmates. Officials are becoming more proactive to identify these inmates who are bringing trouble and transfer them to other jails. According to the president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs Tom Dominguez, county jails have become very dangerous and this must be acknowledged by the state.

Orange County Bail Bonds Receives 2011 Best of Orange County Award

Monday, June 20th, 2011

For the third consecutive year, Orange County Bail Bonds located in Santa Ana, California has been selected for the 2011 Best of Orange County Award in the Bail Bonds category by the U.S. Commerce Association (USCA).

The USCA “Best of Local Business” Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USCA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

Nationwide, only 1 in 120 (less than 1%) 2011 Award recipients qualified as Three-Time Award Winners. Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2011 USCA Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the USCA and data provided by third parties.

U.S. Commerce Association (USCA) is a New York City based organization funded by local businesses operating in towns, large and small, across America. The purpose of USCA is to promote local business through public relations, marketing and advertising.

The USCA was established to recognize the best of local businesses in Orange County. USCA works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations, chambers of commerce and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to be an advocate for small and medium size businesses and business entrepreneurs across America.

Orange County Bail Bonds supports Bill Hunt for Sheriff of Orange County

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Orange County Bail Bonds is excited and proud to announce their support for Bill Hunt as the new Sheriff in Orange County. For 10 years we have watched the way the Orange County Jail system and the Sheriff’s Department has been run. We, the public, must demand that the system be changed! The community has suffered through the scandals of Sheriff Carona, now a convicted felon. The Grand Jury has investigated and found that our jails are being run by the inmates. According to the Grand Jury report; at least one inmate was beaten to death while the officers talked on their cell phones and watched TV. The tougher inmates are making huge sums of money by a threaten violence against new inmates, forcing them to call a specific attorney or Orange County bondsman, from whom they then get kick-backs. Illegal interviews are being allowed to take place as an unfair business practice by a few “bad apples” in the bail bond industry. Contact information is being leaked from within the jail, as bondsmen and attorneys cold-call families without ever being contacted by the inmate or anyone else on his behalf. This is strictly against the law! All this was brought to the attention of, then newly appointed, Sheriff Hutchens early in her tenure in office. Hutchens inherited a nightmare from her deposed predecessor and she should and was given a grace period to make these corrections. She has had over a year to correct these problems and she has seen fit not to do so. She has proven herself not capable of running one of the largest Sheriff’s Departments in our nation. It is time for a real change, a time for integrity, honesty and capability. Bill Hunt has all these qualities and is the Orange County Sheriff Department’s best chance to return to the glory days of Sheriff James Musick and Sheriff Brad Gates. Orange County Bail Bonds urges you to restore honor to Orange County and vote: Bill Hunt for Sheriff in 2010.

“The Sheriff should be in the business of protecting

people’s rights, not restricting them.” Bill Hunt 2005

____________________________________________ 2nd Amendment, CCW Protecting Your Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights! As your Sheriff, I will issue CCW’s to any applicant who is a law abiding resident of the county, meets state mandated requirements and is not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm. To me, personal protection is good cause. ____________________________________________ Fiscal Responsibility The Sheriff’s department budget is $800 million. In these difficult times, Orange County told our appointed Sheriff to cut 3% of the budget. She waited 8 months to find a mere 3 cents on the dollar and her plan was to fire cops. As your Sheriff, I will streamline the bloated bureaucracy, cut wasteful spending and enhance service and performance for our citizens. I will reform our jails, reform drug treatment and medical services, feed inmates in their cells, stop senior leaders from spiking their pensions and eliminate take home cars for non-first responders. ____________________________________________ Jail Reform It is the responsibility of the Sheriff to maintain our jails. I will not release inmates early to save money and expandspace. I will ensure we keep sentenced inmates in-custody for the duration of their sentence. I will not lease our jail space to the Federal Government for pennies on the dollar while citing and releasing local criminals back into the community. I worked every level of Orange County jails and I can change the culture. Morale and performance suffers when deputies serve 7 years in custody on average with no hope of other assignments. I will change this. I will charge a fee for inmate initiated medical visits and feed inmates in their cells. We will increase Orange County jail capacity; eliminate early releases, lower operating costs and reduce the need to build costly new jail facilities.

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