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The Buckeye Institute: Smart Bail Reform Will Strengthen Public Safety in Ohio



May 19, 2022

Columbus, Ohio – On Thursday, The Buckeye Institute testified (see full text below or download a pdf) before the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee on the policies of House Bill 315, which “would help Ohio fix a broken cash bail system and take important steps to protect the public from violent offenders”.

In his testimony, Alan B. Smith, criminal justice researcher at the Buckeye Institute, gave examples that tragically demonstrate that “[c]the ash bond does not provide adequate public safety” and that “[u]Repentant perpetrators released on bail still pose serious risks to the community because the bail paid is insufficient to deter the crime.

  • Dragan Sekulic paid a slave $10,000 on bail – 10% of his $100,000 bail – and murdered his ex-wife two weeks later.
  • Lonnell Anderson posted $400 bond for a weapons possession charge, jumped a patio fence at a crowded Cincinnati-area bar and shot Derek Smith in the back of the head.
  • In Wisconsin, Darrell Brooks, Jr. was free on $1,000 bond despite his lengthy criminal record and drove his SUV through a Christmas parade, killing six people, including a child.

While noting that “[c]our cash bail did not prevent these murders,” Smith pointed out, that House Bill 315 avoids the mistakes made by New York and “offers a more responsible approach” to bail reform that: 1 ) Maintains remand hearings for those charged with serious crimes; 2) rightly expands the list of offenses punishable by remand; and 3) Allows judges to order mental health assessments in cases involving the threatened with harassment or violation of a protection order.

In conclusion, Smith urged lawmakers to enact “[r]responsible bail reform” that would “improve Ohio’s pretrial criminal justice system by maintaining adequate protection for public safety, improving fairness among economic classes, and reducing unnecessary costs to taxpayers” .

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Smart Bail Reform Will Strengthen Public Safety

Testimony of the interested party
Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee
House Bill 315

Alan B. Smith
Criminal Justice Fellow
The Buckeye Institute
May 19, 2022

As prepared for delivery

Thank you, President LaRe, Vice President Swearingen, Ranking Member Leland, and committee members, for the opportunity to testify regarding Bill 315.

My name is Alan Smith. I’m a criminal justice researcher at the Buckeye Institute, an independent research and teaching institution—a think tank—whose mission is to advance free-market public policy in the states.

House Bill 315 will help Ohio fix a broken cash bond system and take important steps to protect the public from violent offenders. Cash bail alone does not provide the public safety that many proponents assume, but too many recent bail reform efforts across the country have taken a singular view of reform, often eliminating the surety systems without maintaining adequate public protection.

Cash bail does not provide adequate public safety, as a defendant’s financial means to post bail is not a good indicator of good behavior. People charged with violent offenses, for example, should not be released after arrest just because they or someone they know can post bail. Unrepentant perpetrators released on bail always pose serious risks to the community because the bail paid is insufficient to deter the crime.

Several recent and tragic examples illustrate this point.

Dragan Sekulic from Canton was arrested after he attacked and unsuccessfully tried to kill his ex-wife with his car. Sekulic paid a bonded slave $10,000 – 10% of his $100,000 bond – and was released. Sekulic tracked down, found and murdered his ex-wife two weeks later.

Lonnell Anderson posted $400 bond for a weapons possession charge. He then jumped a patio fence at a crowded Cincinnati-area bar, walked up behind Derek Smith — a man with no established relationship to Anderson — and shot him in the back of the neck. The crime, if not the victim, could have been reasonably foreseen.

In Wisconsin last year, Darrell Brooks, Jr. was free on $1,000 bail despite his lengthy criminal record. He made national headlines when he tragically drove his SUV through a Christmas parade, killing six people, including a child.

Court-ordered cash bail did not prevent these killings. But careful remand systems might be.

Unfortunately, bail reform has been pursued in some states with little concern for public safety. New York, for example, does not allow its judges to directly consider public safety when ordering bail, release conditions, or pretrial detention. Significantly reducing the remand population in New York became an urgent need after the city council vote in October 2019 to close the city’s 11 jails and build four smaller ones closer to the criminal courts by 2026. The council order will reduce current jail capacity from an average of 7,300 a day to around 3 300 per day. New York afterwards enacted a law which eliminated remand and bail for a estimated at 90 percent criminal offences, with the exception of most violent crimes. New York State has done “everything” on probation and now generally prohibits monetary obligations for most non-violent misdemeanors and crimes.

According to the New York Criminal Justice Agency, although the number of offenders released before trial has remained relatively stable thanks to the latest legislative change, the number of people re-arrested for violent crimes double from 2019 to 2021. Shootings increased in New York by 260% and murders by 60% between the summer of 2019 and the summer of 2020. Debates and controversies naturally ensued, and the new mayor of New York is now ask that some discretion be restored so that the courts can take into account the danger offenders pose to the community if released before trial.

Fortunately, House Bill 315 avoids the New York error and offers a more responsible approach.

This legislation recognizes that judicial and police resources are limited and that these limited government resources should be used to prevent serious crimes and to apprehend those who commit them. House Bill 315 not only maintains remand hearings for those charged with serious crimes, it rightly expands the list of offenses eligible for remand, including domestic violence, breach of restraining orders protection, manslaughter, reckless homicide, aggravated vehicle homicide, assault while driving a vehicle, aggravated assault, aggravated threats, sexual conduct with a minor and commercial sexual exploitation of a minor. These legal and prosecutorial tools recognize the serious threat that those accused of such crimes can pose to the public.

House Bill 315 also allows judges to order mental health assessments in cases involving threats by stalking or breaching a protective order. After such an assessment and hearing, remand may then be imposed in the interest of public safety or out of concern for individual victims.

While avoiding recent New York mistakes, House Bill 315 recognizes that nonviolent offenders charged with minor, nonviolent crimes should not be detained simply because they and their families cannot post bail. He acknowledges that it is costly for the government to keep individuals charged with minor, non-violent offenses, many of whom will not be convicted or will ultimately have their cases dismissed. But to its credit, House Bill 315 also proves to be consistent with to research and extensive anecdotal evidence showing defendants plead guilty to charges simply to avoid losing their jobs, homes, or custody of their children while awaiting trial. In Harris County, Texas, for example, home to America’s fourth-largest city Houston, the tort roll is in federal court. decree of consent and is subject to extensive monitoring and reporting. the estimated cost for remand defendants is about 10 times the estimated cost to the government, which excludes social pathologies that carry over into employment, housing, and long-term earning potential.

Responsible bail reform will improve Ohio’s pretrial criminal justice system by maintaining adequate protection for public safety, improving fairness among economic classes, and reducing unnecessary costs for taxpayers. House Bill 315 makes commendable progress toward each of these improvements.

Thank you for your time and attention. I would be happy to answer any questions the committee may have.

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