Under the glare of neon signs and unforgiving fluorescent office lights, bail agents are spending time processing a new California law signed just days ago by Gov. Jerry Brown that could decimate their industry.
The new system, which would virtually eliminate the payment of money as a condition of release, could spell doom for not only bail agents, bounty hunters and surety companies across the state, but also a $2-billion bail industry nationwide. Reform in California, which holds roughly a quarter of the market, could prompt other states to follow suit, bail groups and lobbyists said.
Reaction has been swift: Just a day after Brown signed the bill into law, bail associations filed a voter referendum in an attempt to block it, asking for support from the very criminal justice groups and activists they’ve long been at odds with. Now agents say they are scrambling to find new careers, closing up shop or weighing whether to move their businesses out of state.