Ohio Supreme Court Rejects Use Of System To Assess Candidates For Bail

Jan 21, 2020

The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected a recommendation that tools used to measure offenders' likelihood of skipping out on court appearances after an arrest be made available to all judges as they make bond decisions.

Requiring the availability of so-called “risk assessment tools” was the top recommendation of a task force commissioned by the court last year, and led by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, to examine Ohio's bail system. Supporters say the tools are a more accurate way to weigh factors judges consider when setting bond.

Detractors say the tools can be racially biased, costly to smaller courts, and improperly override judges' own experiences in setting bond.

The panel’s report, issued in July, encouraged courts to “consider all alternatives to pretrial detention.” It cited a study from the Buckeye Institute that found a day in jail costs about 13 times as much as supervised release.

"In state after state, including ours, the majority of jail detainees have not been convicted of anything," said O’Connor in a September speech. "They simply are waiting to have their case resolved. They can’t make bail. Some cannot come up with what you and I would consider a nominal sum."

Among the other recommendations were setting pretrial supervision or services based on a defendant’s risk or needs, rather than their ability to pay. It also suggests the Ohio General Assembly provide funding to help courts manage those services.

The task force also said that bond schedules shouldn’t vary within a county, courts should use email or text messages to remind people of their hearings, and start collecting statewide data.