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Questions and Answers with Bill Hunt

Orange County Bail Agents ask Bill Hunt some “If he were Sheriff” questions:

Sean Cook:
What is your overall opinion of the bail industry?

Bill Hunt:
I believe I have an excellent personal and professional understanding of the bail industry and the many problems it faces in Orange County. As sheriff I am committed to ending capping in our jails and improving the overall operation of the jail. This will include changing the current department culture of indifference to one of service. As sheriff I will insist that our deputy’s understand they are there to serve the public and our private stake holders like the bail industry. Service means inconveniencing themselves to make the operation and your interaction with us more efficient.

Sean Cook: In the past it used to take 10 minutes for a deputy to take a defendant from a Bondsman when we surrendered them back to custody. Today it is often in excess of 3 hours. Why do you think the changes occurred and what would you do to change it?

Bill Hunt:
Unfortunately, I know first hand that 3 hours is being generous and that is inexcusable. It is a potential public safety risk to have a handcuffed fugitive sitting in the visiting lobby for 3-6 hours. This is another striking example of the Sheriff’s Department’s lack of responsiveness to the stakeholders it is supposed to be providing service to. When I am sheriff, bail surrenders will be booked on the back dock where police officers book their prisoners. They will be given priority over police department bookings unless medical or security reasons require otherwise. If it takes more than an hour to book a fugitive on my watch someone will have some explaining to do!

Sean Cook:
What is your opinion of OR compared to the private bail industry?

Bill Hunt:
When I am sheriff bail will be the preferred method of release. It makes no sense to release people on OR when there is little accountability to ensure they show up in court. It also makes extra work for the Sheriff’s warrant detail to have to hunt them down when they fail to appear and have a warrant issued for their arrest. Bail has a lower fail to appear rate than OR, bail agents are both personally and financially responsible for ensuring their clients appear in court and are held accountable when they not. It’s a better system all around. OR should be limited to its original purpose of providing an alternative to incarceration for those who are destitute and unable to make bail. This is in line with my overall political philosophy of smaller government. We shouldn’t be creating and expanding government’s version of a more efficient private sector alternative that is at the very least cost neutral to begin with.

Sean Cook:
Currently the Orange County Jail takes about 6 hours to book an inmate and another 6 hours to release an inmate. Would you be willing to “Fast Book”or “Fast Release” inmates when you are aware they will be bailing out?

Bill Hunt:
I am committed to streamlining and improving the booking process. It would be my goal to develop some type of fast track program like Sacramento County has, not just for bail but to make the whole booking process system more efficient. The current booking process is akin to the American auto industry compared to the Japanese auto industry in terms of efficiency. It can and should be more efficient. As sheriff I will meet with department personnel, records personnel and members of the bail association for input and recommendations. We’ll evaluate current practices, look for ways to improve the operation and then do it. It’s not hard; we just need a leader who understands the reason and benefits for it to get things started.

Sean Cook:
Would you assign a sheriff liaison to our association?

Bill Hunt:
Yes, and I’ll do one better. I believe that the Sheriff’s Department cannot become truly responsive to the public without input from the public and the other components of the criminal justice system that rely upon interaction with the sheriff’s department on a daily basis like the bail industry. I am going to commission a Public Safety Committee to meet with me regularly to evaluate our policies and practices to ensure we are providing excellent service and forming productive partnerships with industries like the bail industry, the security industry, criminal defense attorneys’ public defenders, private investigators, etc. I will invite the bail association to select members to be part of this committee on behalf of the bail industry. After all, you aren’t really a stake holder if you don’t have a seat at the table to begin with.