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Cuyahoga County Courts To Consider Bail System Overhaul

The justice center in Downtown Cleveland. [Matt Richmond / ideastream]

A new report is calling for countywide reforms of the bail process in Cuyahoga County. 

Right now, most bail in Cuyahoga County is set based on the offense.

The study’s lead author Jonathan Witmer-Rich said that defeats the reasoning behind bail – to keep dangerous people off the streets while awaiting trial and ensure that defendants will show up in court.

“Setting the same bail for everyone based on the case means that some of those people are going to be detained because they don’t have much money and others are going to get out because they do have money," said Witmer-Rich.

Witmer-Rich said bail should be set based on an individual’s circumstances – their criminal history, ties to the community, ability to afford bail – and the preference should be for releasing people quickly.

The study also calls for a single office where bail is established, instead of each court handling its own cases.

In a statement, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Administrative Judge John Russo said there will be a countywide judges meeting later this month where they will discuss the report’s recommendations.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.