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Cincinnati City Council OKs motion to eliminate cash bond for nonviolent misdemeanor cases

Posted at 4:55 PM, Apr 23, 2019

CINCINNATI — Evanston resident Earl Starr said he lives a very different life than he did 10 to 20 years ago, when he was incarcerated and twice posted bond.

"Bond was $2,500 on the theft case, and if I was struggling from work, $2,500 is significant," he said. "Not everybody can come up with $2,500 at the drop of the hat."

Having to post bond on a charge of a minor offense "can wreck a person's life," Starr said.

Now, change is coming for people accused of nonviolent misdemeanors. The Cincinnati City Council passed a motion that would forego monetary bail for suspects in those cases as they wait for their trials.

It is difficult for many people accused of crimes to come up with bond money, according to the Ohio Justice and Policy Center.

"When we're talking about a city like Cincinnati and Hamilton County, we have high rates of poverty," Dorianne Mason, director of the Second Chance Project, said. "So if someone gets assessed a $1,500 bond, we can't assume that the person can make that bond. Even though it is potentially low, it is not so low to the person that has to pay for it."

In just 48 hours of being held pre-trial, someone can losing jobs, housing and custody of children, Mason said.

That's why the organization, along with others like Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, worked to pass a motion that will get rid of cash bail for anyone accused of nonviolent misdemeanors. Instead, the prosecutor assigned to a case will ask for an "own recognizance" bond with no financial obligation.

According to Mason, two-thirds of people held in jails across the country haven't been convicted of anything. She said she hopes this bond reform will change that statistic.

"It's a problem when somebody who can afford to post the $150 or $300 or $5,000 gets to go back into their community, where the person who does not have access to the resources or the means has to suffer while they await trial," she said.