Daily Court Reporter - News More flexibility sought in Ohio's bail system
More flexibility sought in Ohio's bail system
ANNIE YAMSON, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
A special committee of the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission presented its recommendations to reform Ohio bail and pretrial services at the commission's quarterly meeting on Thursday, March 16th.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Bail and Pretrial Services has been working for 11 months to examine the current state of bail and pretrial services in Ohio.
Now, the committee has issued a report on its recommendations meant to maximize public safety, appropriate placement for defendants, appearance at court hearings and to protect the presumption of innocence.
The 256-page report includes six recommendations that the committee stresses "should not be read or considered independently."
"The implementation of each recommendation is necessary to create a fair and effective bail system with robust pretrial services," the report states.
Among the recommendations is the establishment of a risk-based pretrial system.
"Setting monetary bail based only upon the level of offense, as most bond schedules do, negates the ability of the court to differentiate bail decisions based upon a defendant's risk for failure to appear or the risk to public safety," the report states. "At a minimum, defendants detained in accordance with the bond schedule should have a bond review hearing within a reasonable time.
"Bond schedules should be consistent and uniform between counties and between courts within counties."
The committee also recommends the implementation of a data collection system that would ensure "a fair, effective and fiscally efficient process."
"As in other areas of Ohio's criminal justice system, data regarding pretrial decisions, agencies, and outcomes is rarely collected," according to the report.
"A dedicated, concerted effort to increase data collection and analysis for all facets of the bail and pretrial system in Ohio includes each jurisdiction mandated to collect appearance rates, safety rates, and concurrence rates (how often a judge accepts a pretrial service agency recommendation), development of a method to track the number of hearings on bond and information about violations that occur while defendants are out on bond and effectiveness and/or success of diversion programs."
Other recommendations include maximizing release through alternatives to pretrial detention, mandating the presence of counsel for defendants at initial court appearances, requiring education and training for court personnel with a vested interest in the pretrial process, and continued monitoring and reporting on pretrial services and bail in Ohio.
The ad hoc committee was comprised of Sentencing Commission members and others with a vested interest in the pretrial system. Judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, court administrators, law enforcement, and even bail bondsmen were represented on the committee in an effort to examine all sides of the issue.
Over the course of 11 months, the committee met five times and formed work groups to tackle the various issues identified by committee members as priorities for discussion.
"As criminal justice systems across the nation re-examine bail practices, the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission has engaged in a collaborative, thoughtful process in developing recommendations that address public safety and court appearance concerns by shifting the bail decision from a money-based decision to an individualized defendant risk-based system," said Dan Peterca, committee member and past president of the Ohio Association of Pretrial Services Agencies, in a statement.
"The result of these recommendations is a system that more fairly considers a defendant's risk of failing to appear or to the safety of the community rather than the amount of money they or their families have."
Union County Prosecutor, Dave Phillips, also served on the committee and said that his primary concern was protecting the public from harm.
"The ad hoc committee's proposals appropriately balance these concerns against the rights of the defendant," Phillips said in a statement. "The time is right for reform of the money bail system."
During the quarterly meeting, the commission discussed the proposals but did not vote on whether to accept the final report until its next quarterly meeting in June. Until then, the commission is seeking public comment on the recommendations through May 15.
The full report can be accessed at http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Boards/Sentencing/default.asp.
Instructions to submit comment on the recommendations can also be found on the website.
Date Published: March 28, 2017