Fort Lauderdale Pre-Trial Release Program Extends Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Program to Non-Indigent Criminal Defendants

In these hard economic times it is a welcome gift for criminal defendants in Fort Lauderdale jails to be offered GPS bracelets and let out of jail without posting bail. The Pre-Trial Release Program, originally intended for indigent defendants, has broadened itself to embrace criminal defendants who have the financial resources to pay for their bond. The explosive growth of the government financed program has become the focus of a major political struggle. Supporters of expanding Pre-Trial Release are maligning Bail and Bond agents who insist they can do the job of getting criminal defendants to court for less money. Bond Agents say Pre-Trial Release should be pared back and limited to indigents only. State Senator John Thrasher (Republican from Jacksonville) has introduced a controversial bill in the Florida Senate that will curtail Pre-Trial Release. The bill would limit the program to the indigent. National Public Radio shined a national spotlight on this issue in a radio report aired in late January 2010 which did little to calm the waters. The broadcast inflamed the already heated fight by allegedly airing false statistics about the program’s success rate and cost.