Bail reformLatestNewsPolicy Reform

Motion to reform Cincinnati’s bail practices introduced to City Council

On April 8, a motion was introduced to City Council to reform the City of Cincinnati’s methods for requesting bail for people accused of crimes. OJPC is honored to be part of the coalition working to make this reform a reality.

This motion proposes that city prosecutors will adopt a new standard of recommending no bail (own recognizance release) for people accused of non-violent misdemeanors.

The purpose of this reform is to ensure that factors other than wealth should determine whether or not a person spends time in jail. Even one night in jail can negatively affect a person’s employment, home and family life, and mental or physical health.

Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld filed the motion.

“We know that the inequities in our justice system more severely impact people who are low-income and who are from communities of color,” Sittenfeld said. “To be the fair, just, beloved community that we want to be, we need to face these challenges head on.”

An inefficient bail system also costs taxpayers: It costs an average of $69 per day to house a person in the Hamilton County Justice Center.

Reform like this is especially needed in Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

“Nationally, 66% of people in jails are waiting for their day in court,” said Dorianne Mason, attorney at the Ohio Justice & Policy Center. “While jail population data isn’t publicly available in Hamilton County, we do know that percentage soared to 75% last year.”

“On any given day, approximately three-quarters of the people in our jail are there simply because they cannot pay bail.”

The bail system is meant to ensure that people show up to court after they’re charged with a crime and to promote public safety. However, research shows that the use of money to decide who is released and who stays locked up does not keep society safer.

Prof. Wendy Calaway of the University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash, Prof. Jennifer Kinsley of NKU Chase College of Law, and Dorianne Mason collaborated with Councilmember Sittenfeld on the policy.

“We commend the City of Cincinnati for its efforts to promote economic justice and to ensure that a person does not remain in jail simply because he is too poor to buy his way out,” Kinsley said.

Cincinnati is on the leading edge of implementing this type of bail reform, particularly in the absence of a lawsuit attacking its bail system. Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Manhattan passed similar reform measures, and the State of California voted to eliminate cash bail altogether.

See the full text of the motion below:

WE MOVE that the City Administration draft and formally adopt a Bail Reform policy where, for non-violent misdemeanors, City of Cincinnati prosecutors recommend Own Recognizance Release.

BACKGROUND:

Each year, local taxpayers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to incarcerate individuals who have not been convicted of any crime, but who are simply too poor to pay the bond necessary to secure their release pending trial. People who can afford to pay their bond are released while their cases are resolved.  However, for many, as little as $100 keeps non-violent defendants incarcerated. Robust research shows that a policy releasing non-violent defendants while their cases are resolved poses no greater risk of failing to appear in court or to the public at-large. Moreover, while incarcerated pre-trial simply due to an inability to make bail, people risk losing their jobs, falling behind in school, not getting needed medication, and losing housing and custody of their children. Affluence does not equate to innocence, nor does poverty equate to guilt.  The issue is one of equal access to justice for those without the means to buy it.