Thursday, April 3

A uniquely American business

Illegal Globally, Bail for Profit Remains in U.S. (New York Times)

A fascinating article about the uniquely American business of bail bonds, in which private businesses post bail for criminal defendants in return for a fee. Though the system lends itself to corrupt practices and leaves a great deal of decision-making power in the hands of private citizens (who are free to set their own fees and accept or reject clients at will), the article suggests that it is actually remarkably effective at ensuring that defendants appear in court or are captured if they do flee -- all at no cost to the taxpayer. (Score one for American private enterprise!)

This follow-up post on the Freakonomics blog by economist Ian Ayres also argues in favor of the bail bond system: His research shows that the market competition inherent in the system serves to reduce (not increase) judicial discrimination against minority defendants, and may also serve to protect poor defendants.

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