Bail reform would make Ohio healthier and safer
For years, Ohioans have watched states from Kentucky to New Jersey to Colorado and many of them have passed legislation to modernize their bail systems. While public conversation and stakeholder interest were high, Ohio did not cross the finish line. But that doesn’t mean we can’t, and it’s time to remember what bail reform would actually do for all Ohioans.
Every day, as much as 12,000 people, or about 60% in Ohio prisons, have not been sentenced. These legally innocent people largely remain behind bars simply because they cannot afford cash bail. This is the essence of wealth-based detention, and it does nothing to promote public safety. But it hurts families, communities and the fabric of Ohio.
Long prison wait times have devastating long-term consequences, even for those later found innocent. Our criminal justice system should not be set up to punish and create instability for any of us, but certainly not for those who are legally innocent and awaiting trial. Unfortunately, this is exactly how our pretrial system currently works. Fortunately, Senate Bill 182 and House Bill 315, Bipartisan bail reform companion legislation is making its way through the Ohio Statehouse.
Senators McColley and Steve Huffman, along with Representatives David Leland and Brett Hillyer and 46 co-sponsors are leading this effort. This legislation rightly focuses on key provisions to ensure that people do not languish in jail simply because they cannot pay cash bail while maintaining and prioritizing public safety.
The bills accomplish this by creating a release pathway so most people can go home within 24 hours, unless the judge or prosecutor is concerned that someone is missing a court date or s ‘it raises considerable public safety concerns. In this case, a hearing on detention or release conditions could be scheduled within 48 to 72 hours depending on the prosecution. These hearings would include access to counsel and if a cash bond is attached, the defendant’s ability to pay must be taken into account.
These common-sense policy solutions will greatly benefit Ohio communities and save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
Under the proposed legislation, Ohio would be a healthier place. The size of his wallet should not determine his freedom, especially when we know that policies that reinforce the vicious cycle of criminalizing poverty hurt us all. Every day spent in prison puts a person’s job, home, family life and community ties at risk.
Policy Matter Ohio 2021 Report, Bail reform will improve Ohio’s health, Remarks that “one of the obvious effects of pre-trial incarceration is an increase in mental stressors, such as the threat of job loss, separation from family, and the trauma of incarceration. These and other environmental and personal factors can degrade the mental health of those incarcerated while awaiting trial.
This report also highlights the negative effects on the children of those who are incarcerated. The stress of not knowing when or if their parents will come home can even cause more stress compared to longer sentences after conviction.
The research in Ohio also mirrors what we’re seeing nationally. Persons detained before trial are more likely to be convicted than those charged with the same crime but released shortly after arrest, and they are more likely to be sentenced to jail or prison, and longer sentences.
Moreover, there is a big misconception about WHO is in our prisons and Why. A 2020 ACLU from Ohio study of four counties revealed that 63% of those detained before trial were charged with a misdemeanor or felony without a person. Most of these people should be at home with their families rather than in a jail cell. The cash bail system unfairly punishes people who don’t have money, just because they don’t.
Ohio’s overreliance on cash bail is costing our communities in ways we cannot quantify. Bail reform will undoubtedly help families and communities maintain stability. That’s why more than 70 organizations and individuals support these efforts across Ohio. It’s not just social justice advocates – religious people, scholars and even law enforcement have all taken their places at the table.
Meaningful bail reform, like that of Senate Bill 182 and House Bill 315, promotes public safety, ends wealth-based detention, and allows more people to be home with their family ahead of their trial date, strengthening the fabric of Ohio. The evidence is clear, bail reform is a win-win, and now is the time for bail reform.
Get morning headlines delivered to your inbox