Cleveland.com recently turned to Attorney Ian Friedman for his insight on the encouraging new bail reforms proposed by Judge Brian Melling of Bedford Municipal Court. Judge Melling recently outlined the changes for the news outlet, which has been reporting on the financial inequities of Cleveland's bail system in its series Impact 2016: Justice for All.
The proposed reforms—which may be implemented as soon as September—will pull focus away from non-refundable bond payments to bond agents and instead favor a 10% payment option. That option will allow some defendants to be released from custody by paying just 10% of their bond, an amount they can later recover by attending their next court date. Attorney Friedman approved of the idea, saying that when the accused have "more skin in the game, it seems logical that you are going to have a higher rate of appearances."
Rate of appearance has been a growing concern in Bedford Municipal Court. Melling told Cleveland.com that, under the court's current bail system, only 75 - 80% of defendants actually return to court after paying the non-refundable fee to bond agents.
The Bail "Balancing Act"
The 10% option Judge Melling describes has been implemented in other courts in Cuyahoga County and, while he is optimistic that change will ultimately benefit the community, it may take some adjusting to the bond amounts. Melling believes that, for the new system to work, 10% of the current, suggested bond amounts may not be enough to compel defendants to return to court.
Attorney Friedman also agreed with this assessment, calling the responsibility of setting bail a balancing act. By lowering the bond amounts, the court will give many underserved citizens a chance to continue their lives while they wait for their court date. However, the amounts cannot be so forgiving that they are considered acceptable losses to citizens looking to avoid court altogether.
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