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State Supreme Court Panel Recommends Ohio Avoid Cash Bail

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Ohio’s courts would take significant steps away from cash bail under a set of recommendations offered by a state Supreme Court task force.

The panel, led by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, encourages courts to “consider all alternatives to pretrial detention.” It cites a Buckeye Institute studythat found a day in jail costs about 13 times as much as supervised release.

The panel’s first suggestion is to make a risk assessment tool available to help guide a judge’s decision-making when setting bond. Those tools are often a kind of checklist, sometimes including a pretrial interview with the defendant, to determine their likelihood of appearing in court or being a public risk.

To that end, the group also proposes setting pretrial supervision or services based on a defendant’s risk or needs, rather than their ability to pay. The report notes existing offices are often able to oversee electronic monitoring, mental health services and drug and alcohol treatment.

In cases where court budgets are stretched too thin to manage those services, the panel suggest the General Assembly provide funding.

Many of the task force’s other suggestions could be filed under good governance, like ensuring bond schedules don’t vary within a county, or making sure a lawyer is present if a defendant faces pretrial detention.

Others recommendations would push courts to modernize by using email or text messages to remind people of their hearings, provide additional training for court officers and start collecting uniform statewide data.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.