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Kempinen: Bail bonds provision is a triumph of special interests that hurts crime victims (column)

5:19 PM, Jun. 24, 2013  |  Comments
A provision in the state budget would permit bail bonds to come to Wisconsin.
A provision in the state budget would permit bail bonds to come to Wisconsin.
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Wisconsin crime victims don't have lobbyists. They don't have enough money to write checks to legislators or sponsor all-expenses-paid junkets to five-star resorts. They lack the ability to produce glossy brochures or pay for pseudo-research to support their positions. As a consequence, they can't count on having out-of-state special-interest legislation inserted into a budget bill in the dark of the night and passed even though seemingly no one in Wisconsin supports it and nearly all who know about it oppose it.

That was the case with the provision in the state budget that would allow bail bondsmen who, for a price, would be allowed to pay the bail of someone charged with a criminal offense to get them out of jail, in the process taking on a risk that the defendant will actually show up to court.

Yes, between Wisconsin crime victims and the American Bail Coalition, a special interest group supported by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, it's not really a fair fight.

As a result of this law, bail money that previously went to crime victims to pay for their losses will be taken out of their pockets and put into the pockets of out-of-state commercial bail bondsmen. No existing problem will be made better, nor will any Wisconsin community be safer as a result of this legislation. All that will change for certain is a legislative-sanctioned transfer of money from Wisconsin crime victims to out-of-state commercial bail companies.

In many cases, it wasn't a fair fight between criminals and their victims. But there was a time when our elected officials evened the playing field by putting Wisconsin victims' interests and public safety ahead of out-of-state special interests - for example, when a different legislature and a different governor 35 years ago outlawed commercial bail bondsmen in Wisconsin, or when other Legislatures have expanded the rights of crime victims.

The budget decisions of the current Legislature and, in the days ahead, the governor will tell us much about the status of Wisconsin crime victims today.

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