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COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A bond is supposed to keep criminal suspects behind bars. But, in the last four months, hundreds of people in Columbus County, including some with violent charges, have been issued unsecured bonds.

A two-inch stack of unsecured bonds includes crimes like drug trafficking, sexual battery and assault on a child under 12. When placed under an unsecured bond the defendant is trusted to appear in court on the assigned date and to stay away from their alleged victims.

Judge Douglas Sesser and Judge Jerry Jolly drew up the new bail policy for Columbus and Bladen counties in May. Mark Cartret, who owns a bail bonds office in Columbus County, says he hasn’t seen a policy as liberal as this in any other district. He says before the new policy was implemented, unsecured bonds accounted for about 25 to 30 percent of bonds issued. In the past few months, Cartret says the amount of unsecured bonds has exploded.

“I have approximately 1,000 unsecured bonds that I’m looking at, which correlates to approximately 97.2 percent of bonds that are issued by magistrates in Columbus County,” said Cartret.

Under the new policy, to issue a secured bond, magistrates must fill out a three-page questionnaire on each defendant, making it a more cumbersome process. Cartret says the policy makes it much easier for magistrates to issue unsecured bonds.

“So to tell a magistrate, who is often working long shifts, that they’ve got to do three pages of additional paperwork to issue secure bonds is almost a burden on them,” said Cartret.

We did speak with Judge Sasser who says he modeled the policy after the North Carolina general statute. He says he trusts the magistrates to make the right decision in determining what kind of bond to issue.


Comment on this Story

  • Mark Cartret

    Well Dave you are partially correct. There is also a public safety element and a happy or “safe” medium that is not being considered. The public safety side is clearly not being factored into the equation. Have you seen the study that systematically outlines the cost of unsecured bail? The higher percentage of failure to appears “fta’s” being generated causes law enforcement to “go-it-alone”, while bail agents are not helping to locate / arrest the numerous warrants being generated. A bail agent is not involved in unsecured bail. Bail agents are a self-funded system that saves the taxpayers $2 billion annually in North Carolina.
    Absent secured bail…The victims pay. The taxpayers pay. Many of those allowed out on free bail, are not even a candidate as they have no jobs or stable residences. Many are out on other charges as well and with lengthy criminal records. Look at the violent offenders being allowed to enjoy free bail in Columbus County. It is easy to write something but often hard to debate the facts. The facts do not support the method these judicial officials are currently practicing.

  • Actually, Ms. Jasek, a bond is to guarantee that a defendant will appear at trial…they’re not meant to keep defendants in jail….learn about the criminal justice system before you write about it further, perhaps.

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