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Poor people in jail, rich people go free? Ohio’s cash bail reform could change it

“This is about fundamental fairness: people should not be in jail because they don’t have money,” said Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus). “You spend a week in jail; what happens to your job? What happens to your children? What happens to the payment on your car? What happens to your life?”

by Geoff Redick Tuesday, May 18th 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — A large group of Democrats and Republicans in the Ohio Statehouse have signed onto an effort to reform cash bail in the criminal justice system, an effort that has been pushed for years on both sides of the aisle.

House Bill 315 and Senate Bill 182 were both introduced on Tuesday. The effort aims to prevent Ohio from unfairly punishing accused criminals who cannot afford to pay their way out of jail before a trial.

“This is about fundamental fairness: people should not be in jail because they don’t have money,” said Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus). “You spend a week in jail; what happens to your job? What happens to your children? What happens to the payment on your car? What happens to your life?”

Leland and Republican co-sponsors in the House and Senate acknowledged the realities of a burdensome bail system that can leave accused criminals behind bars for months, even if they eventually plead down or are found not guilty.

“Our current bail system has failed Ohioans,” said Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon), an influential and deeply conservative member of Ohio’s Republican majority.

The proposal on Tuesday would change bail so that it more fairly treats all Ohioans. The proposal would not eliminate bail for any crime, but would require that prosecutors hold a bail hearing within 48 hours of an arrest to prove why a defendant ought to be held on cash bail.

If a judge then hands down a cash bail, the defendant will be screened for his or her monthly income, minus household expenses. The bail would not exceed 25% of the defendant’s “extra” income — so that if a defendant has $1,000 left after paying monthly bills, cash bail would not exceed $250.

Rep. Leland on Tuesday challenged the notion that bail is the only collateral way to ensure Ohioans make their court date, or the only way to protect the public.

“You could have electronic monitoring. You could have a situation where a person’s not allowed to talk to the victim of a crime,” Leland said. “Or they have to have a mental health hearing, or they could have to go through some sort of drug rehab situation. There are 14 different conditions of release that a judge can impose.”

The statute would not apply to violent crimes or violent accused criminals, who must go through a special hearing to determine whether they are eligible for cash bail at all — and are often held without bail.

Read the original article here.

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