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 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!

Views: 87

Comment by Sarah Murphy-Gruenwald on July 22, 2009 at 10:36am
Excellent article. Thanks for the history lesson, and for showing the compassionate side of this type of business. Nice window into a world I have not had to visit, as of yet;)
Comment by shotsie on July 22, 2009 at 12:59pm
You can bet that a lot of these bail bond places would go under if the government allowed the use of credit cards to pay the bail - nope, it's cash to the jailer, but the bail bond places all take credit cards - hmmm - do you think they might have influence over the cash rule and also the amount of bail?
Comment by Juan on July 22, 2009 at 2:39pm
I'm pretty sure I saw their commercial last night where after she (who I assume is the daughter) pauses in her speech they flash an image of a skull with flames behind it that has the words Jail Is Hell wrapped around it. Awesome.
Comment by hettie on July 22, 2009 at 5:27pm
nice story, adelita. (and I love those stephanie plum books! I'm still waiting for #15 to come out in paperback. If you haven't met kinsey milhone yet, you might check out the "a is for alibi" series. the author is sue grafton.)
Comment by Barelas Babe on July 22, 2009 at 10:31pm
Great post on an overlooked part of Albuquerque. I go right past these businesses all the time, and have often wondered what goes on there.

Oh, and I have just downloaded the first chapter of One for the Money on my Kindle...
Comment by killbox on July 22, 2009 at 11:56pm
I cant say i have much tenderness in my heart for some Bounty Hunters, after having them Ransack my house once, looking for a skip that had never been there.

here is a link to the AP article that ran that next sunday.
Comment by Bosque Bill on July 23, 2009 at 7:37am
Thanks for the insight, Adelita. I'm going to check out the Stephanie Plum novels, too.

Maybe we need to start a Strong Woman Detective Novel Readers group?! One of my favorite "guilty" pleasures.
Comment by JMG on July 23, 2009 at 3:34pm
Nice article about a real Duke City family business, Adelita. I always figured the bail bonds people just fronted the money for the cut and that was it.... but they (at least Julie) can offer valuable advice about dealing with that system if you're "new" at it!

When we were in the Peace Corps, my husband and I read the Sue Grafton books (about half way up the alphabet at that time) and also the Sara Paretsky series, featuring a woman P.I. named V.I. Warshawski, who had a lot in common with Kinsey Milhone. Highly recommend those, too.
Comment by Adelita on July 23, 2009 at 3:39pm
JMG, thanks so much for "introducing" me to her. She was so kind and told a couple of stories about helping some of her clients far beyond the bail. She has a very big heart. Also, I was completely surprised to learn that she charges 0% interest on her payment plans.

Time for me to start reading Sue Grafton, and some of the others you've suggested.
Comment by julie sanchez on July 23, 2009 at 9:15pm
Comment by shotsie 1 day ago You can bet that a lot of these bail bond places would go under if the government allowed the use of credit cards to pay the bail - nope, it's cash to the jailer, but the bail bond places all take credit cards - hmmm - do you think they might have influence over the cash rule and also the amount of bail?

I would like to respond to your comments first by saying that credit cards are able to be used to post a bail bond. In most cases, the judge who sets the bail, not the bonding, allows for a cash bond(credit card) or a surety bond(which means a bail bond company can post the bond). I guess you could say that it is a good thing that we have no imput on what the judge sets for a bond.


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