Report calls for overhaul of Ohio’s bail system

Ohio should make changes to its bail system to be more fair, save taxpayers money and ensure that people don’t sit in jail only because they’re too poor to post bail, according to a report from the Task Force to Examine the Ohio Bail System.

The task force issued a 25-page report to the seven justices of the Ohio Supreme Court that included nine recommended reforms. The justices are scheduled to discuss the report at a conference on Aug. 6.

The 30-member task force was loaded with judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, lawmakers and others and chaired by Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Mary Katherine Huffman.

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The purpose of bail – conditions set for release from jail before trial — is to protect the public from harm and ensure a defendant shows up for court. When bail is tied to a monetary schedule, those who cannot come up with the money are locked up while awaiting their day in court. Some Ohio counties have already begun using “risk assessment” tools to determine the best bail conditions for each defendant.

Although most defendants in jail awaiting trial are lower-risk and charged with non-violent crimes, it costs U.S. taxpayers $38 million a day to keep them locked up. A day in jail costs on average $65 compared with $5 for supervised release, the task force reported.

A report last year from the Buckeye Institute, a conservative think tank, said bail reform could save Ohio taxpayers $67 million a year.

In Ohio nearly six of every 10 jail inmates are awaiting trial – rendering them unavailable for work, family obligations or school.

The task force recommended:

Validated risk assessment tools should be available to every judge setting bond or conditions of bond;

Expand Criminal Rule 46, which lays out factors to be considered when setting bond, to include risk assessment tool findings;

Ohio provide funding for courts to deploy these risk assessment tools;

Change Criminal Rule 44 to require legal representation for defendants at initial court appearances for any offenses carrying the potential penalty of being locked up;

Expand pretrial supervision capacity, such as electronic monitoring, drug and alcohol testing, mental health treatment and automated reminders of upcoming appointments; and

Improve statewide data collection of the pretrial process.

Related: Man stopped for wearing hoodie, baggy pants is jailed for nine days

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