The ACLU of Ohio on Friday urged Cuyahoga County officials to immediately adopt the recommendations of a bail-reform task force.
Caitlin Hill, policy counsel at the ACLU of Ohio issued a statement praising the recommendations, but calling it a “first step” to reform.
“The recommendations mirror some of the best bail practices implemented in other states that have helped dismantle unfair systems that keep people in jail simply because they cannot afford to pay their bond,” Hill wrote. “County leaders have taken the first step toward reform, but must now turn recommendations into reality without delay.”
The Cuyahoga County Task Force on Bail released its recommendations Friday morning. The recommendations include having centralized-bail hearings rather than have judges in each of 13 municipal courts in the county make their own bail determinations.
Such an arrangement would provide for more prompt and consistent bail decisions and allow for defendants to have quicker access to an attorney. It would also limit the use of bond schedules that are based solely on the charges against a suspect rather than the risk of a defendant failing to show up for court or causing trouble if released from jail.
The task force also wants judges to use a validated risk-assessment to help size up defendants.
The recommendations also include beefing up pretrial services, such as supervision and mental-health treatment, and making them available to defendants throughout the county. Judges would be able to release more people who might pose a danger to the community if those defendants can be adequately monitored using pretrial services.
John J. Russo, presiding and administrative judge of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, convened the task force after cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer began publishing its ongoing Justice for All series about inequities in the bail system.
Russo said the recommendations will be on the agenda of the judicial conference of the 8th Judicial District in May and that the feedback will be used to determine what to do next.
A copy of the recommendations is also being sent to Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish.