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Roughly 57 percent of inmates in Ohio jails are not there serving a sentence but instead are awaiting trial, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction data. Ohio courts should look at risk factors, not bank accounts, when deciding who goes free on bail and who stays locked up, according to advocates for bail reform.
House Bill 439 would let courts impose conditions instead of setting a monetary bail to make sure the accused shows up in court; require courts to use a risk assessment tool before setting bail; and wipe out cash schedules for setting bail. It would also require courts to collect data.
The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and Ohio Judicial Conference expressed concern that the proposed changes would require more staffing and resources — and urged lawmakers to fully fund any new mandates.
A 34-member study group led by the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission in June 2017 recommended reforms to the state’s pre-trial system, including cutting back on the reliance on money bail and improving data collection. House Bill 439 reflects some of that committee’s recommendations.
Related: Bill in Ohio House seeks to give judges more say in bail decisions
Related: Ohio looking to change bail system, focusing less on money
Charles Miller of the Ohio Bail Agents Association said using a risk tool relies on the accused’s criminal history, not the current crime.
“With this legislation we’re creating a catch-me-if-you-can scenario in Ohio and it’s entirely unnecessary,” he warned lawmakers.