Equality Ohio Supports Legislative Effort to Reform Cash Bail in Ohio

Today, we submitted testimony on SB182, which will reform Ohio’s unjust system of cash bail. The current system has left countless individuals stuck in jail for years, even before their trial, not because of anything they did, but because they couldn’t afford to pay the bail set by the courts. Because these long pre-trial detentions are based on the inability to pay, people of color and LGBTQ+ people disproportionately experience the dangerous knock-on effects of Ohio’s cash bail system. SB182 and companion legislation in the House, HB315, are important steps as we seek to create a more equitable and just legal system in Ohio.

This bill would address that injustice by limiting the instances where courts can impose cash bail, establish a system by which bail is set based on an accused person’s ability to pay, and ensure that all accused people receive a hearing within 24-48 hours of their arrest.

Read our testimony here:

Chair Manning, Vice-Chair McColley, Ranking Member Thomas, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony in support of Ohio Senate Bill 182, which will bring about much-needed reforms to Ohio’s bail system.

My name is Alana Jochum, and I am the Executive Director of Equality Ohio, our state’s LGBTQ education and advocacy organization. Equality Ohio strongly supports Senate Bill 182 and the bipartisan effort to address the inequalities in our state’s cash bail system.

Right now, in Ohio, the duration of a person’s pre-trial detention has more to do with a person’s wealth than anything else. Regardless of their alleged crimes, poor people spend more time in jail before their trial simply because they cannot afford to make bail. We know that Ohio’s harmful bail policies have a disproportionate impact on people of color, with Black men receiving bail amounts 35% higher than White men with comparable criminal histories.

In addition to disproportionate impacts on people of color, LGBTQ people and people living with HIV/AIDS also are at increased threat of interaction with the criminal justice and cash bail systems in Ohio. According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Black & Pink, LGBTQ people are more likely to have their bail set at a higher amount, simply because persisting harmful stereotypes claim that members of our community are less likely to be connected to their families and therefore, greater flight risks. 

The NCLR also found that 74% of LGBTQ and HIV-positive prisoners in one survey were held in jail pre-trial, simply because they could not pay the bail their judge set for them. In addition, extended jail stays due to inability to pay a bail could exacerbate health concerns for those living with HIV, as often an arrest can mean that those individuals will be separated from their life-saving medication. 

As you know, SB182 would:

  • Ensure those who are arrested will receive an initial release decision within 24 hours.
  • Return those who pose no flight risk or threaten the safety of any person will be able to return to their homes and communities.
  • Require that those who may pose a risk of fleeing or to the safety of their community receive a hearing before a judge within 48 hours for most offenses.
  • Stipulate that in cases where bail is set, judges must justify in writing why it is necessary and set the bail at a level that is within the means of the accused to pay.

Bail is not a sentence, and therefore, should not be based on the alleged criminal acts of the person detained. Passing this bill will fulfill the promise of due process for all Ohioans while saving our state millions of dollars. Equality Ohio urges passage of SB182.