Friday, the Buckeye Institute announced that Daniel J. Dew, a legal fellow with the institute, would lead an Ohio Supreme Court Task Force, focused on reforming the bail system throughout Ohio.
Dew has done some of the most extensive research and analysis on the state’s current bail system and his findings are rather shocking. He notes;
The traditional cash bail system allows accused murderers, child rapists, armed robbers, and dangerous gang members to be arrested and released into our communities to await trial. Meanwhile, otherwise law-abiding, harmless citizens sit in jail for days, weeks, or even months for drunken jaywalking, violating dress-codes, or failing to pay traffic tickets. These absurd incongruities stem from a pretrial release system rooted in money rather than a careful, scientific assessment of the risks that the accused pose to our neighborhoods.
One of the most tragic examples featured in his work; “Money Bail: Making Ohio a More Dangerous Place to Live,” tells the story of Dragan Sekulic. In 2015, he was charged with domestic violence, “felonious assault, domestic violence, and, and operating a vehicle while intoxicated,” all directed at his ex-wife. After posting a $100,000 bond, he left jail as a free man until his trial. He murdered his ex-wife two weeks later.
The reverse of this is the story (which is also detailed in his report) of people like Markcus Brown. After violating the dress code of the Ohio Regional Transit Authority twice, he was arrested and held on $150 bail. His family was so economically disadvantaged that they had to get a “car title loan” while he spent nine days in jail, all to be fined $111 and banned from the transit system. That same report found that imprisonments like his cost the state $65 per bed, per night, and that the total annual cost of this and similar inefficiencies are an estimated $67,136,121.
The tasks force, which first met Wednesday, will interview and consult with a myriad of reporters, lawyers, former inmates, scholars, and experts to discuss substantive measures to curb the wast, both in time and money.
They will make their final recommendations in April of 2019.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].