Court rejects use of system to assess candidates for bail

Court rejects use of system to assess candidates for bail

(excerpt from Sentinel-Tribune Jan 21 2020)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected a recommendation that tools used to measure offenders' suitability for being released after an arrest be made available to all judges as they make bail decisions.

Requiring the availability of so-called "risk assessment tools" was the top recommendation of a task force commissioned by the court last year to examine Ohio's bail system.

The tools — there are several nationally — look at a variety of factors, including defendants' age, criminal history and past failures to appear when analyzing what type of bond conditions should be set. More than 70 courts in Ohio already use them.

Supporters say the tools are a more accurate way to examine the two most important factors that judges consider when setting bond: Will the offender skip out, and will they pose a public safety risk if released?

Detractors say the tools can be racially biased, costly to smaller courts, and improperly override judges' own experiences in setting bond.

Despite the task force's recommendation, the court voted 5-2 against including the requirement, according to minutes of the vote obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justice Michael Donnelly voted in favor of the assessment tools. Justices Judi French, Sharon Kennedy, Pat Fischer, Pat DeWine, and Melody Stewart voted against.

The vote doesn't preclude judges from using the tools, O'Connor, a strong supporter of the tools, said in an interview.

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