Professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich is the principal drafter of the Report and Recommendations of the Cuyahoga County Bail Task Force. The report, released on March 16, 2018, calls for significant reforms to the way courts across Cuyahoga County set bail and conditions of pretrial release. According to the report, the courts “should transition from a bail system based on bond schedules, which vary widely from one court to the next, to a centralized, consistent, and comprehensive system of pretrial services initiated immediately after arrest.” The report notes that setting bail through bond schedules often results in the unnecessary detention of defendants simply because they are too poor to afford bond. Instead of bond schedules, the report recommends that courts “assess each defendant’s risk of non-appearance and danger to the community using a uniform risk assessment tool. If money bail is considered, courts should evaluate each defendant’s risk of non-appearance and ability to pay, and then tailor money bail accordingly.” The report also calls on Cuyahoga County to invest in centralized pretrial services, which will enable the courts to conduct individual assessments of each defendant, also also provide monitoring and oversight of defendants who are released pretrial. The Bail Task Force has been studying Cuyahoga County’s bail systems for over a year. The Report and Recommendations reflect current best practices in bail and pretrial release, and are consistent with bail reforms that have been enacted around the country in recent years.
The Report has received significant media coverage: for the Plain Dealer story regarding the Report, click here; for the Ideastream report, click here; for the WKSU story about the Report, click here.