Ohio House Hearing on Bill That Would Abolish Bail

An Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee hearing on a controversial bill that would effectively end bail in the state will take place Tuesday, March 20.

Authored by Representative Jonathan Dever (R-Madeira), House Bill 439 was written to require courts to use a risk assessment tool to determine if individuals are to be released on their own recognizance and at no cost while they await trial. The intention is to create a fairer system in which the poor cannot be held in jail indefinitely, while wealthier individuals are allowed to “buy” their way to freedom.

Similar bail reform legislation has been implemented in other jurisdictions throughout the country. However, there have been numerous reports of considerable pushback on the new laws coming from judges, prosecutors and law enforcement, as well as the public.

Jeff Clayton, Executive Director of the American Bail Coalition, will be testifying at the hearing.


House Bill 439 Would Require Courts to Use Risk Assessment Tool to Determine if Defendants Represent Danger to Society

WHEN: Tuesday, March 20

WHERE: Ohio Statehouse

WHAT: Hearing in the Ohio House of Representatives for House Bill 439. Introduced by Representative Jonathan Dever, the bill would require courts to use the results of a validated risk assessment tool in bail determinations; to allow nonmonetary bail to be set; to require courts to collect certain data on bail, pretrial release, and sentencing; and to require the state Criminal Sentencing Commission to create a list of validated risk assessment tools and monitor the policies and procedures of courts in setting bail and utilizing pretrial supervision services.

The bill attempts to correct the perceived problem of unfairly punishing individuals who cannot afford bail by forcing them to languish in jail, while those with money can afford to buy their way to freedom.

The bill is controversial because the veracity of the risk assessment tool has been called into question by a variety of experts on the subject, including independent criminal scholars, judges and district attorneys in jurisdictions where similar laws have been enacted. Recent studies covering areas including Houston, Texas and the entire state of Kentucky showed new crimes and failures to appear in court actually increased under similar legislation.

Taxpayer cost is also a significant factor, due to the huge expense of implementing and enforcing the new systems that would have to be put into place. In New Jersey, which put similar laws into place last year, the state has run out of money to pay for its enforcement. This has forced the judiciary to turn to lawmakers to demand that taxpayers fund its continuation.

WHO: Jeffrey Clayton, Executive Director of the American Bail Coalition, a non-profit organization that is committed to developing the most efficient means for the pretrial release of criminal defendants by reducing the financial impact on state government and taxpayers, while maximizing public safety.