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Bail reform group says cash doesn't guarantee public safety

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A group advocating for bail reform says a proposed Ohio constitutional amendment isn't the way to go. The state attorney general this week announced an effort to require judges to take public safety into consideration when setting bail.

Jeremy Cherson with The Bail Project says cash bail should only be used to guarantee a defendant's appearance in court.

"What we do know about cash bail when it's used for public safety purposes is that it tends to discriminate, and it tends to disproportionately affect people of color," he says. "That's regardless of a judge's best intention to stay neutral. We just know statistically that that happens."

Cherson says a constitutional amendment isn't necessary to reform bail in Ohio because there are already bills before the legislature — Senate Bill 182 and House Bill 315 — which have bi-partisan support.

"They create procedural guidelines, they require that cash bail be limited in its use to only considerations of somebody's return to court, and they do that after an ability-to-pay assessment," he says. "And that's great."

Cherson says Ohio judges already have a number of options to address public safety concerns that don't hinge on bail.

"They include everything from the use of electronic monitoring to supervised release kinds of programs. The state and the legislature can investigate and develop some of those pre-trial supports and services to make sure that there are options available to judges throughout the state," he says.

Ohio's attorney general and three legislators this week announced plans to make safety a required consideration for judges when setting bail.