|Insurance companies make huge profits in the bail industry by exploiting brown and Black families. They must be stopped.
Demand Bankers Financial shut down its bail business.
Senators Cory Booker and Sherrod Brown sent 22 letters last week demanding answers from the biggest profiteers of the bail industry–insurance companies–about their corrupt business practices.1Bankers Surety, the largest bail insurance company in the country, has particularly come under fire for their role in exploiting, harassing, and overcharging clients–mostly Black families who are already under economic distress. Most people only know Bankers Insurance for providing flood and disaster insurance, but its most profitable line of business has been Bankers Surety which backs over $2 billion in bail for agents in 49 states.2 A Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit against Bankers Surety includes claims under RICO for collecting unlawful debt, seizing people against their will, threatening to put them in jail in order to force payment from their families, and requiring people to pay for ankle monitors that cost $10 per day.3 According to the suit, a man named Ronald Egana was falsely imprisoned and held for ransom repeatedly; bonds agents even made him miss his court date–which bail is supposed to prevent in the first place.4 This is twisted and practices like this must stop.
Bankers Financial is a huge corporation but we can win and here’s how: By leveraging this new spotlight on their corrupt practices and standing up one by one to say it is unacceptable, we can apply pressure on Bankers to close the bail arm of their business. According to industry reports, bail companies are already seeing revenue losses due to the scrutiny of the #endmoneybail movement. If we can show that the public has absolutely no interest in upholding the toxic bail industry, Bankers will shut down its surety purely to save its other businesses. Using a similar strategy, we were able to work with Google and Facebook to take the first step in divesting from the industry by prohibiting bail bonds ads on their platforms.5 And if Bankers Financial follows their lead and cuts ties with bail, then a huge part of the infrastructure of the bail system will crumble and we’ll be one step closer to completely eradicating money bail. This investigation from Sen. Cory Booker is only the beginning of the wave of exposure facing the bail industry. When we all stand up together, raise our voices, and tell the stories of our communities impacted by corrupt corporations like Bankers, it takes it to the next level.
Here’s how corporations like Bankers are exploiting our people: before even being convicted of a crime, people who’ve been charged with a crime and their families are forced to pay non-refundable deposits to bail companies in exchange for their release from jail. As a last resort, thousands of defendants and their loved ones turn to local, for-profit bail shops to help them get back to their lives. Bail insurers, in return, trap people in debt through high fees and installment plans. The worst practices of companies like Bankers Surety exacerbate generational wealth inequality and disrupt the lives of our most vulnerable community members.6 But not a lot of people know how these companies work, and that’s why Cory Booker’s investigation and our work to expose them is so important.
Mass incarceration of brown and Black people starts with money bail. According to federal data: over 65% of people kept in jails nationwide, are locked away solely for their inability to pay bail.7 Black, Latinx, and Indigenous folks are more likely to be stuck in cages because across the country people of color are given higher bail amounts than white people–even with similar charges.8 Bail can reach amounts in the tens to hundreds of thousands–forcing people to choose between losing their job and staying in a dangerous jail or losing their families, homes, and resources, just to get free. What kind of choice is that? Our families deserve better than to be targeted, exploited, and harassed by local bonds agents when all we want is freedom and safety for the people we love most. None of this violence would be possible without the close partnerships between insurance corporations and local bail bonds companies.
Every day, resources flow from our people and our communities into the offshore accounts of the corporations profiting from each bail bond, but we can put a plug in it by exposing the organized profiteers propping up the system and demanding divestment from the industry.
Until justice is real,
— Rashad, Scott, Arisha, Clarise, Anay, Kristen, Marena, Tamar, and the rest of the Color Of Change team.
- “Senators Take Aim at Bail Industry Backers.” The Marshall Project, 6 August 2018. https://act.colorofchange.org/go/80910?t=10&akid=16737%2E1174326%2E9B5VJu
- “Annual Statement: Bankers Insurance Company.” California Department of Insurance, 31 December 2016. https://act.colorofchange.org/go/79806?t=12&akid=16737%2E1174326%2E9B5VJu
- “SPLC Lawsuit: Bail bond companies charged illegal fees, used bounty hunters to kidnap clients, extort money.” SPLC Center, 19 June 2017. https://act.colorofchange.org/go/79803?t=14&akid=16737%2E1174326%2E9B5VJu
- “When Bail Feels Less Like Freedom, More Like Extortion.” New York Times, 31 March 2018. https://act.colorofchange.org/go/79804?t=16&akid=16737%2E1174326%2E9B5VJu
- “Bail-bond industry suffers another blow as Facebook and Google ban ads.” NBC, 8 May 2018. https://act.colorofchange.org/go/48418?t=18&akid=16737%2E1174326%2E9B5VJu
- “Median Wealth Of Black And Latino Families Could Hit Zero By The Middle Of The Century.” Forbes, 11 September 2017. https://act.colorofchange.org/go/79805?t=20&akid=16737%2E1174326%2E9B5VJu
- “Jail inmates in 2016.” U.S. Department of Justice, February 2018. https://act.colorofchange.org/go/80528?t=22&akid=16737%2E1174326%2E9B5VJu
- “The Dangerous Domino Effect of Not Making Bail.” The Atlantic, 12 April 2016. https://act.colorofchange.org/go/79807?t=24&akid=16737%2E1174326%2E9B5VJu