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Long Story Short

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To call the bail bond industry shady might be an understatement: It thrives when people slip up, and operates in a parallel universe where the responsibilities of buyers and sellers are blurred.

Bail bond agents pay so that accused criminals can get out of jail before trial. The agents make gambles that sometimes go bad, forcing them to employ bounty hunters, investigators and others to help cover their losses. They make news mostly when someone notorious skips bail or when bounty hunters start thinking they're police officers.

It's a fascinating, if disordered, world, and one I was excited to peer into after bondsman Rick Harper, a retired first sergeant from the Army, came forward with complaints that the local industry is so cutthroat as to often free dangerous people for a token payment.

Harper's complaint was tough to verify. But in interviewing people inside and outside the business for "Getting sprung in the Springs" I found lots worth writing about: passion, unease, ego.

The Wild West vibe often associated with the words "bail bonds" seems to remain well-deserved.

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