Criminal Justice Press Release

10.27.17

Cuyahoga County Bail Report Reveals Problems in System, Judges Indicate Willingness to Embrace Reforms

Criminal Justice

CLEVELAND—Today the ACLU of Ohio released a report by the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) urging comprehensive reforms to Cuyahoga County’s bail practices. The report, Enhancing Pretrial Justice In Cuyahoga County: Results From a Jail Population Analysis and Judicial Feedback, found that nearly 30% of Cuyahoga County defendants receiving low level bonds spent the entire pretrial period in jail because they did not have $500 or less to pay a bondsman to secure their release. The ACLU of Ohio, PJI, and the county court system will collaborate to further push for reform, and PJI is scheduled to lead a community discussion of the report November 2, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. at the Cuyahoga County Justice Center’s 12th floor training room.

“The report on Cuyahoga County bail practices confirms on a local level what we’ve already seen coming out of statewide and federal data–which is that many people stay in jail simply because they cannot pay a few hundred dollars to get out,” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director of the ACLU of Ohio. “Numerous studies show that as little as 72 hours in jail pretrial can cause a person’s life to unravel, by losing their jobs, housing, or custody of children, among many other issues. The moment is now for implementation of reform that brings about actual and sustainable change.”

As part of the report, PJI polled Cuyahoga County Municipal and Common Pleas judges about their willingness to learn more about bail reform and adopt fairer practices. A vast majority expressed interest, including the Honorable John J. Russo, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Administrative and Presiding Judge. “I am excited that the PJI report is completed and that the review process can now move forward with some of the hard-data that we have been anticipating,” said Russo. “I am especially encouraged by the judicial feedback that indicates a strong desire by Cuyahoga County’s judges to examine the pretrial process. Our ultimate goal is to serve the public as best we can, and I look forward to the dialog this report generates.”

“The data show a real need for improving pretrial outcomes for people in Cuyahoga County.  Fortunately, there are commonsense steps the county can take to safely reduce pretrial detention and protect legally innocent people from the disruptions that going to jail can cause,” said Cherise Fanno Burdeen, chief executive officer of PJI. “PJI is looking forward to continuing this work with Cuyahoga officials, and the community, so that together we can create a system that is not only fairer and safer, but also more responsible in its use of public resources.”

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Read the full report.