(September 7, 2022) COLUMBUS – A state constitutional amendment on bail practices is headed to the general election ballot in Ohio. The proposal would require judges to consider factors such as “public safety, the seriousness of the offense, a person’s criminal record, and a person’s likelihood of returning to court” when setting bail. The Bail Project issued the following statement in response:
“The proposed constitutional amendment attacks a problem that does not exist. Judges in Ohio already have the authority to deny bail when public safety is a concern. What the amendment does is double down on the use of money as a proxy for who is detained or released before trial – a practice that discriminates against the poor and disproportionately people of color.
To enhance public safety while strengthening due process protections around bail practices in Ohio, it is wiser to look at HB 315 and SB 182, two bipartisan bills under consideration in this legislative session. The reforms would require a presumption of release and make pretrial liberty the norm, in line with the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Salerno. These bipartisan bills would also create a robust set of hearings that would allow judges to detain people pretrial as a last resort if they represent a demonstrable risk to public safety. In addition, because excessive bail is unconstitutional, under this framework judges would also be required to consider a person’s ability to pay if they decide to set bail at all.
Ohioans have a choice to make. Double down on a system of wealth-based pretrial detention that costs state taxpayers $266 million each year and results in stark racial disparities in who is jailed before trial. Or improve the justice system to ensure that all Ohioans are treated equally under the law.”
Learn more about The Bail Project at bailproject.org.