Last summer a woman that I worked with turned me on to a series of silly books
about a not very successful bounty hunter who works for her cousin’s bail bonds office. Not exactly heavy reading, but I’ve gotten through all fifteen books in the series. Let’s just say I call them my in-betweener books.
It was a bit of a coincidence that a fellow DCFer and friend, JMG
, sent a message saying she had a story idea for me. She met a lovely woman who owned her own bail bonds business and came from a family of bail bonds men and women. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity.
I called Julie Madrid and we set up a time to meet. As I was driving downtown I was struck by all the different bail bonds businesses. What struck me even more were all the Madrid
bail bonds businesses! Just drive downtown on 5th Street sometime and see for yourself.
Considering the only “experience” I’ve had with the bail bonds is through mass market books and bad movies, you could say I had preconceived ideas of what to expect. You could also say my preconceived ideas were wrong.
The Madrid family started in the bonds business when Julie’s dad, Tony, retired from the Air Force. He had nine children to support! Mr. Madrid’s uncle made Tony an offer to him to help him out in his bail bonds company. He became his partner in 1976 and by 1977 set out on his own. He is semi-retired now after 30 years in the business. Seven of his nine children are now bail bonds men and women.
Julie was the last one to branch out on her own. Julie married at nineteen, moved away and came back home to Albuquerque after her divorce. She was a young mother and needed to support her family so she made a proposal to her brother and sister who had their own bail bonds business. She proposed that they create a position for her to take care of all the collectibles. They accepted her offer and in a very short time she got most of the uncollected debt cleared.
When Julie eventually branched out on her own it was at the encouragement of her daughter Liz and began her own business January 16, 2007. It is interesting to see that her siblings are her competitors, yet they have adjoined offices and help each other out. Julie’s husband, daughter and son-in-law all work together.
We got down to the business of talking about what she does. Julie told me that basically bail bonds men and women are like bankers, they loan money to people to help them bond out of jail for the duration of their case. There is a non-refundable fee of 10% of the bond, to which she referenced the Eighth Amendment.
I asked about the type of clients she has and how she can remain neutral or not be judgmental. She says that it can be difficult and tries not to be cynical. Sometimes it is easy to get emotionally attached to some clients, and sometimes it is easy to get sucked into the drama of other clients. But she says that everyone has a story and everyone has different circumstances that get them into the situation they are in. She does her best not to pass judgment but usually she can sense when someone is guilty or not. She says that she feels compassion for those that have gotten in trouble, especially first timers. She reminds me that you are innocent until proven guilty and that not all people who have gotten in trouble with the law are bad people. Many first time offenders never have problems with the law again. Often these people are single mothers who have gotten in trouble and have no one to care for their children. Bonding someone out can allow them to possibly continue to work to support their families until their case is settled - a fact I never had even considered.
Most of her business is by referral or repeat business. Just as some teachers may see a couple of generations of students in their classroom, her family has seen several generations of clients pass through their doors. Sometimes a “legacy” of crime is passed down through generations of families. Often times this is a result of desperation due to poverty, drugs, or abuse.
I felt a real sense of compassion from Julie. She stressed how you can’t judge a book by its cover. Listening is an important part of the job. She tries not to counsel people but sometimes she has to be direct and has to turn them away. Sometimes they are a flight risk and occasionally she’ll even tell a parent that leaving their child in jail might be the best thing for them.
This led me to ask if she is ever afraid at work. The business is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is located downtown. Julie says that in all the years she’s been in the business, she’s never been afraid. She has never been robbed or assaulted. It helps when all the businesses next door are physically connected and all owned by other Madrids!
Julie talked about how sometimes she recognizes clients on the street, but keeps a low profile and unless approached, doesn’t say anything. Her son-in-law told me a great story about being at the mall when a guy started chasing him. He yelled out to Carlos, “Don’t you remember me? You’re my bail bondsman!” I imagine most people wouldn’t be so quick to reveal that information in a very public place. But I guess the Madrid family showed kindness to someone in need and he wanted to show his appreciation.
I’m so glad I got to meet Julie and her family. It is a world I really never gave much thought to. I appreciate when someone takes time to talk to me about what they do and lets me hang out. A little slice of Burque..it is what makes me love my city and the people that live in it!
Picture is of Liz and Julie. Special thanks to JMG for the story idea!