Bail bond agency moves into Uptowne
By Sarah Einselen
This past October, a new black-and-pink sign began swinging from its rod over the entrance to the Uptowne building at 120 Harding Way East, announcing the location of the new office of AA American Bail Bonds, operated by Galion resident Gina Powell.
Powell, who has been a bail bondsman for the last seven years, said the location was perfect because it was right in the middle of the area where she does business—Crawford and Richland counties are her busiest counties, she said, with Marion coming in third. Before, she worked out of offices in Mansfield, so she also liked working much closer to home, she said. And the AA in the name doesn’t stand for anything, said Powell. It was added to put her office at the top of the phone book listings.
The Galion bondsman with pink handcuffs and a small pink pistol she got for Christmas began her career the bail bond business because she wanted to enter law enforcement but still run her own business, she said.
“We’re considered officers of the court,” she explained. Although misdemeanor and felony offenders can be jailed after their arrest until the trail is completed, Ohio law also allows for them to be set free if bond is posted, usually several thousand dollars.
That’s where a bondsman comes in. A bondsman puts up the cost of bail when someone is jailed, then the jailed offender is set free on the promise that the bail money will be forfeited if the offender is doesn’t show up for court dates after getting out. Otherwise, the bond payer gets the money back at the conclusion of the trial.
“When we write those bonds, we take responsibility that that person will show up for each and every court date,” Powell said. A co-signer on the bond, usually a family member of the jailed person, pays the bondsman’s fee and is also held responsible if an offender skips a court appearance.
Powell says her job helps people find justice if they’ve been jailed. “It’s not my place to judge somebody whether they’re innocent or guilty,” she stated. “That’s what the court’s for. Everybody deserves a second chance.”
Bond clients have to check in with Powell each week via phone during the court case. And if one does “jump bond,” or skip a court date, after being set free, she’ll have to track them down. She had seven “skips” out of hundreds of court dates last year, she said, and found all seven people within two days.
Sometimes, her job takes her into “some pretty scary places,” she admitted. And most of her clients are people who’ve been arrested on drug-related charges, whether for felonies or misdemeanors directly related to drugs or for thefts that they were accused of committing to fund their drug habits.
“It’s crazy, and I don’t understand it,” Powell said. But she’s had family die from drug overdoses, so she tries to help her clients avoid that same fate. “I lecture them while they’re in jail and I educate their parents,” she said. Sometimes she advises the parents of a jailed person that yes, she will bail the person out, but it’s in their best interest to let the offender stay in jail a few days to get over the immediate withdrawal pains.
She also invites family members of drug addicts to visit a site she founded In memory of one family member who died in 2008 of a drug overdose. B.A.D., or Bondsmans Against Drugs, at bailbondsmansagainstdrugs.com is her ongoing project. It includes the obituaries of known overdose victims in a memorial section as well as information on how to spot drug addiction.
“If I can just save one person from overdosing, I feel like I’ve accomplished something,” she said.