Friday, May 10, 2013

A Sign for How to Get Out of Jail

Several years ago when I arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, after a long series of flights from Shanghai, I saw a sign that evoked a set of thoughts and emotions different from those when I recently saw a sign in San Jose, California. This sign wasn't inside an elevator but instead was inside a light rail train I rode from Baltimore's airport. Here's a blurry photo of the sign:

advertisement for bali bonds

Baltimore is certainly not the only place in the US where one can see ads for bail bonds. For example, I recently saw this set of ads conveniently placed above a urinal at a restaurant in Pensacola, Florida:

several ads including two for bail bonds

Of the six ads, two are for bail bonds.

When I used to live in Baltimore, I'm not sure I would have given as much thought to the signs. But after years of living in China, advertisements for bail bonds service struck me as remarkable. In both cases, I considered what they said about the US. On one hand, the advertisements could be seen as indicative of some positive aspects, including the guarantee that "excessive bail shall not be required", of the US legal system. On the other hand, they could also be seen as indicative of its less-than-positive aspects, including the high number of people in the US who are in jail or facing possible jail time.

I don't plan to offer any commentary about any similarities or differences in bail practices between the US and China*. I share this simply because the sign in Baltimore provided me a first impression I had not expected upon my return to the US. Also, it was one of many examples of how being outside the US for a period of time had caused me to consider what I saw in the US with a fresh or new perspective. And like the example in San Jose, it raises a host of questions about how a foreigner might react if this is one of their first impressions of the US.

*If you're interested to learn some basics about bail in China, one overview from several years ago can be found in the Op-Ed "Bail in China: A Crucial Human Right" by Jerome A. Cohen on the website for the Council on Foreign Relations.

No comments:

Post a Comment