Commercialising disadvantage

the neoliberal discourses of commercial bail bond websites


  • Leigh Harrington
  • et al.


The commercial bail bond industry is one of the most profitable aspects
of America’s highly marketized criminal justice system that is increasingly
shaped by neoliberal structures and ideologies. Drawing on a specialised corpus
of “Home” and “About Us” pages from bail bond websites, this paper is the first
empirical linguistic examination of commercial bail bonds discourse grounded in
its legal context. Using corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis, we examine
how bail bond companies 1) discursively present and promote their services, 2)
represent the legal system and its processes, and 3) construe arrest and detention
to prospective service users. The findings show that bail bond companies position
their services as an unobjectionably common (Brookes and Harvey 2017a) part
of legal and financial self-management by normalising, legitimising, and idealising
their use whilst seeking to minimise the power-imbalance between themselves
and their often financially and socially disempowered ‘clients’. By grounding our
linguistic analysis in a legal context, we demonstrate that these discourses simultaneously
serve whilst oppress those they purport to help, offering an example of
a local form of structural violence that subtly perpetuates neoliberal agendas and
a two-tier justice system.




How to Cite

Harrington, L. ., & et al. (2022). Commercialising disadvantage: the neoliberal discourses of commercial bail bond websites. Language and Law / Linguagem E Direito, 9(1). Retrieved from