By Lauren Williams The Sampson Independent, Clinton, N.C.
As of January, Clinton is home to two new bail bondsmen -- actually two new bail bondswomen.
Bail agents Renea Jackson and Clyenzer Taylor, who call themselves The REAL Bail Ladies of Sampson County, opened their office at the beginning of the year, working under bail bondsman Michael Sinclair of Big Mike Bail Bonds, Inc. in Smithfield and Kenansville.
Jackson and Taylor have one and four years of bail bonding experience, respectively, and both ladies are licensed by the state.
"We were required to take a two-day class, and then once you pass the class, you sit for the state exam which you have to make 80 percent or better on," explained Jackson. "We also have to take continuing education classes every year," classes that cover everything from changes in laws to how to deal with angry or upset clients.
Although the two partners just established their local business, located at 722 Warsaw Road in Clinton, they have already been working together in the 24/7 business for a little more than a year. However, getting into the bail bonds business wasn't something Jackson had planned on, but with the help of some encouragement from family, she decided to pursue it.
"My husband and step-son actually had the idea and thought about doing it themselves, but then they talked me into it," shared Jackson, who originally hails from Ohio and moved to North Carolina with her family five years ago. "I knew nothing about the business but Michael gave me a challenge to try it for one year. He said that women usually do better in this business since they tend to be more compassionate and understanding."
"And I kind of find that it works that way," she agreed, "especially with the younger clients. I talk to them a little like a mom."
Over the course of the past year, Jackson has learned the ropes of the business and has found a job she truly enjoys.
"What we do is when someone calls -- they can call from the jail or a family member can call -- we ask for their name, the charges, and the bond amount. They have to have a co-signer, preferably a family member, and they pay a fee for us to post the bond. Right now we charge 10 percent of the bond amount," Jackson explained, adding that to make their services more readily available to those who need them the ladies are willing to make payment arrangements with their clients for the fee, and they also accept credit cards.
"Our clients are our responsibility until the case is settled," she pointed out. "During that time, they need to report to us once a week or so and let us know if any of their information, like their address, changes. We also have the authority to re-arrest them and surrender them back if we need to."
Fortunately, Jackson hasn't had to make such arrests very often. "I've had one guy that ran on me," she recalled, remembering how "uneasy" she was about posting his bond. "I should have listened to my gut feeling...We found him though in Greensboro."
Other than that one troublesome instance, Jackson shared that her daily work as a bail lady is very rewarding.
"I love being able to help people when they find themselves in a difficult situation. We tell people it is the best insurance you can have. You only pay when you need it, and when you need it, we're there," she said. "It can be for something as simple as having a drink after work and getting pulled over. It's just good to know that it's there if you do need it."
Jackson also loves "meeting and talking to different people all the time" and is especially touched when calls come in from a clients' families who just want to express their thanks.
Jackson received such a call recently, after she posted the bond for a young man who got in trouble and was arrested shortly after his mother was released from the hospital.
"She called and was so grateful and happy," remembered Jackson. "That's really the most rewarding thing -- easing the pain of a mother's heart."
"You know, as a society, we tend to judge, but I find that you can empathize with people if you just take the time to sit and listen," she added.
As the bail ladies look forward to this first year of working at their new location, they are excited to be in Sampson County.
Before deciding on Sampson, "we talked about Harnett County but thought there was better opportunity here in Sampson," said Jackson. "One of the reasons we looked here in the first place is because it's not so saturated with bondsman."
Since coming to Clinton, the two have noticed that the community is "very close-knit."
"We've been trying to get out into the community and meet people," said Jackson. "Right now business is slow. It's good that crime is down here but when you're in our business...It's just a slow time of the year after the holidays and before income tax checks come in. We feel like business will pick up once people know that we're here and on-site."
Signs that business was increasing were evident during the bail ladies' interview with The Sampson Independent -- for one, Taylor was, at the last minute, unable to participate in the interview as she had to go out and post a bond. When later contacted, she was still busy at work and not available for comment.
And what do the ladies most want the community to know about them?
"We provide a service to the community. We're professional and discreet; privacy is very important to us," stressed Jackson. "And we treat everyone with respect and dignity."