COLUMBUS, Ohio — This week the ACLU of Ohio placed a billboard advertisement in Capitol Square, endorsing proactive bail reform bills Senate Bill 182 and House Bill 315, and rejecting House Joint Resolution 2, a regressive effort that aims to enshrine cash bail in Ohio’s Constitution. This billboard launch coincides with the ACLU of Ohio’s Statehouse Lobby Day, in which 100+ activists from across the state are meeting at the Capitol to meet with lawmakers to advocate for pretrial fairness.
SB 182 and HB 315, introduced in May 2021, have broad, bipartisan support with endorsements from over 70 organizations in Ohio, representing faith groups, academics, law enforcement individuals, conservative groups, and grassroots organizations from across the state. Senators McColley and Steve Huffman, along with Representatives David Leland and Brett Hillyer and 46 cosponsors are leading this effort. These companion bills rightly focus on key provisions to ensure people don’t languish in jail simply because they can’t afford their cash bail while centering and prioritizing public safety.
HJR 2 – and its companion SJR 5 in the Senate –propose unnecessary, harmful responses to a Supreme Court of Ohio decision, Dubose v McGuffey, issued in early January 2022. These proposals seek to enshrine cash bail in Ohio’s Constitution by using divisive rhetoric to blur the lines between public safety and cash bail.
“We hope this billboard serves as a bold and stark reminder to Ohio lawmakers that cash bail does not promote public safety, but instead allows people with money to purchase their freedom in a way that those with fewer resources cannot. Since its inception, cash bail’s purpose has been – and continues to be – ensuring court appearance for individuals accused of crimes,” offered Patrick Higgins, policy counsel for the ACLU of Ohio. “It is abundantly clear that the status quo is not effective or acceptable, it is past time to meaningfully change our pretrial justice system forth better, and the answer is to pass SB 182 and HB 315.”
On any given day, as many as 12,000 people, or about 60% in Ohio jails, are unsentenced. These legally innocent people largely remain behind bars simply because they cannot afford their cash bail. This is the essence of wealth-based detention, and it does nothing to promote public safety.
“The wealth extracted from people of color and low-income individuals because of our overreliance on cash bail has a devastating impact on our communities. SB 182 and HB 315 make our communities safer by giving courts and prosecutors tools to protect public safety while at the same time ending the wealth-based detention that harms so many of our neighbors,” noted Elizabeth Hopkins, organizing director for the ACLU of Ohio.