Chances are you’ve never heard of Bermuda-based insurance investment conglomerate Randall & Quilter and its wholly owned Florida-based company Accredited Surety.
Accredited is one of nine major insurance companies that underwrite most of the money-bail businesses in the U.S. Companies like Accredited play a significant role in propping up the two-tiered American justice system that sells liberty to people who can afford it, plunges people into debt who struggle to pay it back, and deprives many others the opportunity to return to their lives, families, and jobs while the court determines their guilt or innocence.
And because of its unapologetic gluttony, Accredited is our bail shark of the month.
Like a proud parent, R&Q was “pleased to announce” its acquisition of Accredited in 2014. In a press release, R&Q Chairman and CEO Ken Randall said, “We are delighted to have reached agreement with Accredited. There is an excellent cultural fit and this represents an important milestone in … securing stable income streams from associated fee and distribution income.”
Clearly, that culture is profit.
On its website, Accredited makes clear that it is not just peripherally involved in the U.S. bail business. Rather it promises to “provide Accredited agents with the support they need to successfully operate a bail agency in today’s market.” The company goes so far as to make explicit that this support extends to protecting the status quo by fighting bail reform.
In its own words, “Accredited has established a long track record of initiating and supporting legislative efforts to improve and preserve the bail industry.” That’s a modest way to describe its attempts to influence the legislature in Florida and around the country, investing tens of thousands of dollars in lobbying along the way.
And it’s no wonder they’re invested in protecting the status quo. In a report to regulators, Accredited boasted they’ve never incurred a loss from their investments in the bail industry. It’s easy money because the system is rigged in their favor and against our communities.
Accredited and companies like it prop up an arcane system, one that existed long before the U.S. Constitution and one that does not live up to its promises of liberty, equal treatment under the law, innocence until proven guilty, and the right to a fair and speedy trial to safeguard these protections. Once intended to ensure that people appeared in court to face and defend themselves against an accusation, the centuries-old money bail system has been thoroughly perverted.
Money bail in the U.S. now generates major profits for bail bond companies backed by Accredited and its ilk. But it’s also responsible for the widespread incarceration of people whose only pretrial pathway to going home to their families and jobs is to sign a contract backed by an insurance company like Accredited. Signing that contract means paying a fee that they will never get back, even if the charges are dropped a day after the contract is signed.
Globally, only two countries allow for-profit bail bond companies: the Philippines and the U.S. Most nations, it seems, have recognized that they shouldn’t allow private enterprise to play a major gatekeeping role in our justice system — like determining who does and doesn’t remain in jail while presumed innocent — and to make its decisions based on people’s wealth and the company’s profits.
The bottom line is that when multinational insurance investor R&Q acquired Accredited, the company absorbed one of the major players in a bail bond system that profits off our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, draining resources out of communities most impacted by mass incarceration. And Accredited plans to keep growing its “core business” unless we continue to mobilize to stop it.
We’ve already started to reform bail practices in cities and states across the country. But in 2018, we’re doubling down on this strategy. In some 37 states — and counting — the ACLU will try to put the for-profit bail industry out of business for good.