When people find out I’m a bondsman, they often ask, “What’s it like to work with criminals? How do you deal with them?”
The short answer is: I treat them as I would want to be treated if I were in their situation. That usually begets the next question, “But aren’t they criminals?”
My response is, sometimes they are. But they’re still entitled to courtesy and respect.
The truth is that the majority of people I bond out don’t fit most people’s impression of what a “criminal” is. The generally accepted definition is someone who commits an illicit act toward someone else, such as mugging, theft, or an act of violence.
Most of the bonds I write are for lesser offenses, like driving with a suspended license, DWI, simple assault, drugs, etc. Many of these offenders lack what I call a “criminal mindset.” For example, while it’s understood a DWI is a serious offense and has the potential of killing people, the mindset of someone driving after having a few beers is not the same as someone who forcibly attempts to steal a handbag from a woman. The DWI arrestee is just trying to get home, while the purse snatcher knowingly plots to cause harm.
Not to mention the fact that the “criminals” in question have not as yet been convicted of any crime. They are still awaiting trial. It’s not up to me to judge them.
Also, the family and friends of the inmate are usually the cosigners of the bond, and it’s these people I get acquainted with rather than the inmate. Typically, I’ll meet them at the jail where the contract is signed, and we wait together for their loved one to be released.
These are my clients, perhaps even more so than the inmates. The signed contract is between me and the cosigners; the inmate is the subject of the contract. And even if the inmate happens to be a true “criminal,” that shouldn’t affect my rapport with the cosigners.
Treating people with consideration, regardless of their standing in life, is basic decency. No benefit comes from being rude to others. I recall a centuries-old religious axiom about treating others as you would have them treat you. That’s just a good principle to live by, and it’s served me well.
About the Author:
Dan Barto is a licensed bail bondsman and owner of Aarrow Bail Bonds in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more about his business, or to read his ruminations on criminal justice, see his site, “The Bondsman.”