ACLU report says reducing cash bail could save Ohio millions

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio could save up to $264 million a year by reducing the use of cash jail to house defendants before their case is resolved, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio released Thursday.

That figure follows an 18-month analysis of court and jail data in two big, urban counties — Cuyahoga, home to Cleveland, and Franklin, home to Columbus — and two rural counties, Athens and Vinton.

A savings of between $199 million and $264 million is based on recommended changes to the cash bail system in Ohio. That includes allowing most people to be released after arrest on their own recognizance, with reviews allowed for defendants who could pose a risk if released.

The report also recommends that a hearing to set conditions of release be held within 48 hours of an arrest if a defendant hasn’t already been released.

The report also found racial disparities throughout the bail system, with Black people charged and jailed at much higher rates than white people in all four counties.

Putting the report’s recommendations in place could save Ohio “a ton of money in a safe and responsible way,” said Jocelyn Rosnick, the Ohio ACLU’s policy director.

Backers of the changes include Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor of the Ohio Supreme Court, who has been calling for the reduction of cash bail in Ohio for years.