DSACLE Supports Ohio Supreme Court Taskforce Recommendations on Bail Reform

***Press Release***

Cleveland Democratic Socialists of America Supports Ohio Supreme Court Taskforce Recommendations on Bail Reform

Jeanne Li, racialjustice@dsacleveland.org

Cleveland, OH – Last week the Ohio Supreme Court’s task force on bail reform released a report and recommendations to improve the pretrial system. The task force was comprised of 30 members from diverse justice-related backgrounds and the nine recommendations now lay before the seven justices of the Court for their review. Cleveland Democratic Socialists of America (DSA CLE) is pleased that stakeholders across the state are taking bail reform seriously and lends their support to the report.

We believe that the cash bail system is used as a tool to further punish those who are already most vulnerable in our society, particularly poor and Black people. The ramifications of cash bail are well-documented, including the human costs of pre-trial detention and the severe racial disparities that occur, all of which are included in the report. These recommendations, if enacted, would 1) remind judges that the point of bail is to secure an appearance, not to punish defendants; and 2) shift the onus to the State and judges to say why someone needs high bail or cash bail at all.

Among the report’s recommendations, Cleveland Democratic Socialists of America specifically supports adopting a uniform bond schedule by county, the requirement of the presence of counsel for the defendant at the initial appearance for any offense carrying the potential penalty of confinement, and the amendments to Crim.R. 46 which put the onus on prosecutors to ask for and justify bail rather than the defendant to contest it. Among the nine recommendations, we strongly oppose the use of risk assessment tools. These tools are not inherently neutral or accurate; risk algorithms reflect well-documented racial disparities rampant within the criminal justice system. Procedural safeguards for setting bail achieve the goal of court reappearance. We must lift less destructive alternatives instead of relying on instruments ripe with transparency concerns, limited predictive value, and underlying racial bias.

While we support these recommendations, we as democratic socialists do not believe reform is enough to protect people from the coercive and oppressive forces of the cash bail system, and thus seek prison abolition as our end goal. We are resolute that the prison system has no place in a socialist world, a system that is explicitly built on exploiting those most marginalized while allowing corporations to profit off of their labor and inhumane punishment. Nevertheless, DSA CLE will continue to work towards ending cash bail to alleviate the extreme harm caused by it as we work towards a world without prisons.

We look to the Ohio Rules Committee to incorporate many of the Ohio Supreme Court’s taskforce recommendations in the amending of Criminal Rule 46 in the fall. We look to the General Assembly to provide the resources necessary to support a fair pretrial system. The justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio will discuss the report at an August 6 conference.

To learn more about Cleveland Democratic Socialists of America, please visit: dsacleveland.org.