(WKBN) – Ahead of the November election, we break down what Issue One, which deals with bail and public safety, would do if passed in Ohio.
“It’s been going for 200 years. Judges have always considered public safety. This is a new case,” said Prosecuting Attorney Joe Deters (Hamilton County, Cincinnati).
Courts in Ohio have always been able to set bond based on public safety and the defendants’ likelihood to appear in court. But this past January, the Ohio Supreme Court changed how bond is set when they ruled on DuBose v. McGuffey. That 4-3 decision ruled that “the sole purpose of bail is to ensure an accused person’s attendance in court, saying public safety is not a consideration with respect to the financial conditions of bail.”
Deters has been at the forefront of this issue.
“He fled to Las Vegas — a horrible murder case — and was apprehended. Las Vegas, fake IDs, credit cards, not in his name, extradited back to Cincinnati. The bond set at half a million dollars. It went all the way up to the Supreme Court of Ohio,” Deters said.
After the Supreme Court decision, Deters went to the Ohio attorney general, then the general assembly to get the issue on the ballot. The ballot measure passed in both the House and Senate with a 3/5 majority.
If passed, the constitutional amendment would “require Ohio courts, when setting the amount of bail, to consider public safety, including the seriousness of the offense, as well as a person’s criminal record, the likelihood a person will return to court, and any other factor the Ohio General Assembly may prescribe.”
Supporters of Ohio Issue One say it would give judges more power to protect people, but others argue it wouldn’t do what it promises.
“Bail is just the illusion of safety. It doesn’t keep us safe,” said Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus).
Leland says increasing bail amounts based on public safety does not do much in reality.
“Bail should not be used in criminal proceedings because bail does not keep us safe. Criminals can pay the bail, get out of jail and then go out and commit tremendous crimes,” Leland said.
“Cash bail was never about public safety,” said one senior researcher for Policy Matters Ohio.
The ACLU website says, “The pretrial incarceration caused by unaffordable bail is the single greatest driver of convictions, and is responsible for the ballooning of our nation’s jail and prison populations. Poorer Americans and people of color often can’t afford to come up with money for bail, leaving them incarcerated in jail awaiting trial, sometimes for months or even years. Meanwhile, wealthy people accused of the same crime can buy their freedom and return home.”
Deters says some of the people most at risk with this new bond rule are domestic violence victims.
“These guys get right back out and they go and they find their wives again and hurt them or kill them,” Deters said.
“People who are under trial are just that, under trial. They shouldn’t just be sitting in jail. So the system of bail is there to give people the ability to be released,” said Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg).
If Ohioans vote in favor of this resolution, it will take effect immediately.