Criminal Justice Press Release


Statewide Poll on Bail Reform Reveals Ohioans Are Ready to Improve Pretrial Process

Criminal Justice

CLEVELAND—Today the ACLU of Ohio and Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) released the first statewide public opinion poll of voters’ views of bail and the pretrial justice system. The new data shows that Ohio voters want to reduce arrests, restrict detention, replace money bonds, and increase equity by addressing the racial and economic disparities in the system. The poll findings also showed that 54% of Ohio voters support major reforms to the criminal justice system, with 21% of those believing that a complete overhaul is needed.

“The poll in Ohio confirms what we’ve already seen coming out of national polls– which is that voters care about bail reform and have a fundamental understanding that our pretrial system is not just,” said Caitlin Hill, policy counsel for the ACLU of Ohio. “Left unchanged, our use of money bail will continue to create a two-tier system of justice, where people with financial means can buy their freedom, and poorer people cannot.”

Three-fourths of poll respondents believe that the wealthy enjoy better outcomes in the criminal justice system than poor and working-class Americans. Additionally, when asked if the criminal justice system treats everyone fairly regardless of race, a majority of voters agreed that white defendants enjoy better outcomes than people of color.

“Leaders in cities, counties, and states across the country increasingly recognize the unfairness of the money bail system, and this poll shows a clear appetite among Ohio voters to reset the default away from locking up legally innocent people toward greater safety and fairness,” said Cherise Fanno Burdeen, Chief Executive Officer of the Pretrial Justice Institute. “Ohioans want an effective, commonsense system and we know how to do that.”

Another key finding showed that 70% of respondents want to limit how many days most people remain in jail before trial if they cannot afford money bond. “Ohio voters understand that the criminal justice system’s addiction to money bail misaligns with core American values and sets pretrial detainees up for failure,” concluded Hill.

The study, conducted by Lake Research Partners between May 2 and May 17, 2018, included phone interviews to 537 registered voters in Ohio. The percentages reflect the view of Ohio voters of all major demographic groups, political affiliations, and geographical regions throughout Ohio.


Read the narrative report on the poll results

Find the one-pager summary of the poll results