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2007-09-04 06:26:05

Credit card deals - inmate's best friend?

There have been numerous articles written on the ways one can use a credit card. And it looks like there is another one coming up soon. A new system has been implemented in St. Lucie that allows arrested or family members to bail using a single swipe of a credit card. The service has already proved itself useful for jail personnel, arrestees and millions of taxpayers who pay for keep the jail operating. However, that very same service does a great deal to bailsmen and their business.

The new system has been implemented in August and has already helped 50 defendants to post bails, totaling $50'000. Most of the felonies were trivial, such as driving under influence and suspended licenses with the largest felony worth $5000. However, no upper limit has been set on the bail. The only limit is the card's credit line which depends on your credit score.

According to Major at Sheriff's Office, it costs $69 to keep an inmate for just one day. This money is taken out of taxpayers' wallets. Moreover, it takes a lot of paperwork for jail staff to process cash bails. There is also great amount of inconvenience for inmates who use cash to post bails. Getting money at 2 in the morning is not an easy task especially while you are wearing handcuffs.

However, there are also individuals who are not quite pleased with the system. It's the bondsmen that find themselves pushed out of the business by the new scheme. The credit card system only charges 3.2 percent for a loan against 10 percent that bondsmen usually charge their clients. And given that the card has a low APR, inmates may save up a few bucks.

Even though bail bondsmen have little positive to say about the new system, they are sure that the new system will not leave them completely unemployed. According to sheriff, there are 9000 arrest warrants for people who have been released on bail and failed to show up in court. And the current system is not efficient enough to hunt them all down. Therefore, bail bondsmen have to engage themselves in bounty hunting activities to get back whatever they have loaned.

On the other hand, bondsmen often refuse to provide credit to people whose bail amount is relatively small, so accepting credit cards should come in handy.

In general, the new program has shown its potential and has already been approved by most of the people who got to use it. It's fast, it's convenient and it's cheaper. If the system will show itself useful in the near future, such practice may be used at other police stations as well.

Nevertheless, experts have a number of reasons to have worries about the new system. First of all, there is a great chance that inmates could use stolen credit cards. The worst case scenario - a person arrested for identity theft may end up posting a bail with a fraudulent card. Secondly, certain individuals are seeing the new system as a mean for criminals to easily get out of jail and continue their illegal practice.

Whatever the society has to comment on credit cards and bails, the system will first undergo a testing procedure and according to the way it will show itself, sheriffs will be able to choose whether to stay with the cash bails or accept credit card deals.

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