By Peter Krouse
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O'Connor has brought together a task force to review the way bail is determined in Ohio.
The task force will review Ohio law and "make recommendations that will ensure public safety and the accused's appearance at future court hearings, while protecting the presumption of innocence," according to the task force guidelines.
John J. Russo, administrative judge for the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, is among the 24 members named to the task force. The group's first meeting was Wednesday. The task force is expected to make a report in April.
Cleveland.com has been advocating for bail reform in Ohio for more than a year as part of its Justice For All series. Russo established a committee to research possible bail reform in Cuyahoga County shortly after the launch of the series.
Among the duties of the Supreme Court's task force will be to study bail practices in other states, including the use of pretrial services, and to review legal challenges to the elimination of bail. Also on the agenda will be an examination of risk assessments used to assist with bail decisions.
In Northeast Ohio, Cleveland Municipal Court has adopted the Arnold Foundation public safety assessment to help determine whether crime suspects are a risk of not coming back to court or committing a crime if released while awaiting trial.
And Russo's newly formed Criminal Justice Coalition is considering a variety of issues related to bail reform, including the expansion of pretrial services.
Polls in Ohio have shown residents have a strong interest in bail reform. State legislators in the previous session of the General Assembly were pushing for a law that called for widespread use of risk assessments and less reliance on bail. But the measure met with stiff opposition from bonding companies and failed to move out of the House of Representatives.
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