If you land behind bars in East Tennessee, Joe Stiles is your first call.
But if you miss your court date, get ready to see him again.
Ask Joe Stiles about his childhood, and his answer could be the lyrics to a country song. His father was a truck driver. His mother was a seamstress. There were more times in want than in plenty, and he was the middle child in a brood of six. “Not the oldest, not the youngest,” he laughs. “Not special in any way.”
These days, there are plenty of people who would disagree. As the founder of Bail Fast Bonding in Knoxville, Tennessee, Stiles had become one of the most respected names in the bail bonding industry. His business, comprised of 11 other agents, is responsible for writing an average of 250 bonds a month. It’s round-the-clock work that can be tiresome and dangerous—but for Stiles, it’s work that is an integral part of the justice system.
“The only constant truth of this business is that people in jail want out. So you have to be able to walk out of a movie theater; you have to be able to walk away from a dinner; you have to be able to get up from a family function—if you can’t provide that service immediately, they will call someone else.”
Ready for Anything
It’s that kind of ready-to-go attitude that set Stiles on the path to bail bonding more than thirty years ago. After graduating high school in Knox County, Tennessee, Stiles found himself doing odd jobs for a wrecker service. “There were no jobs,” he says. “I had nowhere to go. And I’m kind of an impulsive person, I think.” While twiddling his thumbs in a stuffy tow-truck office, waiting for the next call, Stiles saw a commercial about the U.S. Army. The next thing he knew, he was at the recruiter’s office, enlisting.
Stiles spent four years in the 101st Airborne Division, a rapid response Army unit that sent him on reconnaissance missions throughout Central America, completing independent, dangerous and highly sensitive work. After his tour of service, he worked at the county sheriff’s office. So when an old high school friend asked if he’d be interested in tracking down bail jumpers, Stiles didn’t flinch.
Bail jumpers, Stiles explains, are accused criminals who procure a bond to meet bail, then fail to show up for court. In that case, the bondsman has a specified amount of time to bring the accused to court—in Tennessee, it’s a generous 180 days.
In his first weekend on the job, Stiles nabbed a dozen bail jumpers—most of whom were simply hiding out at home.
Over the years, Stiles took his persistence and turned it into a reputation for consistency in an industry rife with risk. He’s served on the board of directors for the Tennessee State Bail Association, and he was also chairman of that organization’s Continuing Education Committee. In those posts, he’s influenced the laws surrounding bail bonding in the state during his 26-year tenure in the industry. Special? Stiles still says no.
But what he (supposedly) lacks in “specialness,” he makes up for with another characteristic—perhaps something more important in the world of bail bonding: “Reliability,” Stiles insists.
“People need to be able to rely on the fact that what you’re telling them and what you’re doing for them is the best that you can do for the time. Reliability is by far the greatest characteristic you can have in this industry.”
To contact Joe Stiles or learn more about Bail Fast Bonding, call 1-800-689-5031 or visit bailfastbonding.com.
His company provides criminal appearance bail bonds through agents in 22 Tennessee counties and can arrange bail bonds in most jurisdictions in the U.S.
To read PursuitMag stories by Joe Stiles, visit our archive.