Louis Tobin of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association said Ohio changed its criminal rules last year to require courts to release defendants on the least restrictive conditions that will still reasonably assure they’ll show up for court.
“We don’t even know yet whether the changes to the rule can be implemented safely, we’re in the midst of a huge rise in violent crime, and the same advocates are calling for something even more extreme,” Tobin said. “What they want is playing with fire in terms of public safety.”
Bail has two purposes: make sure the accused show up for court and protect the public from harm.
Defendants deemed to be too risky can be held in jail without bail. Those considered little or no risk may be released without conditions. Those in between may be required to make bail — money paid up front.
In Ohio nearly six of every 10 jail inmates are awaiting trial — rendering them unavailable for work, family obligations or school.
Multiple reports show Ohio could save taxpayer money and prompt more defendants to show up for court dates. The Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission studied the issue in 2017; the conservative Buckeye Institute reported in 2018 that Ohio could save $67 million a year through bail reforms; and an Ohio Supreme Court task force issued a report in 2019 that called for an overhaul.
Bondsmen, however, have opposed legislation that would push Ohio courts away from using the current cash bail system in favor of assessing the risk each defendant poses.