Attorney Ian Friedman will be one of the local legal figures the Anti-Defamation League will meet with this weekend to discuss bail reform and other practices that could better our criminal justice system. The organization has become concerned that Cuyahoga County is one of the many areas in the country where minorities and the poor have been victimized by the court system.
As Cleveland.com reports, Attorney Friedman is one of three local legal luminaries the organization will meet with Sunday. Also scheduled to speak with the organization are Cuyahoga County Law Director Robert Triozzi and Cleveland Municipal Court Administrative Judge Ronald Adrine. Attorney Friedman is the only Cleveland criminal defense expert scheduled to meet with the civil-rights advocacy organization.
The "Mass Incarceration" Problem
According to the most recent data, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world: about 2.3 million prisoners total. Because of this, advocates are now urging lawmakers to take a closer look at their criminal justice practices and find ways end discrimination against minorities and the poor. One way to do this is to reform our bail system and remove disposable income as a qualifier for escaping jail time.
In Washington D.C., for example, criminal suspects who are low risk to the public (roughly 85% of all arrests) are not issued a bond by the court-- they're free to go until their next court date. The money saved by not jailing these suspects is tremendous. Over the last 25 years, it's estimated that the Washington D.C. has saved nearly $400 million. Cleveland.com's "Impact 2016: Justice for All" initiative estimates that if a similar system were implemented in Cuyahoga County, taxpayers would save $45 million a year.
Skepticism from Some
Not everyone is ready to believe that our justice system discriminates against some of our citizens. John J. Russo is the county's top administrative judge and believes that there is no evidence that bail reform would be advantageous. "There is still no concrete evidence that a bail system overhaul would substantially benefit the Cuyahoga County criminal justice system," he wrote to Cleveland.com. "I have asked the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor and the County Executive to provide me with factually-based statistics to show that proposed changes would benefit Cuyahoga County and the citizens we serve, and I have not received anything." At the time of Judge Russo's email, the country was jailing more 400 inmates over its recommended capacity.
Attorney Ian Friedman has long been an advocate not only for his own clients but for a fairer criminal justice system in the state of Cleveland. While he was president of the Cleveland Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, he worked with defense attorneys and prosecutors alike to draft a revision of Cleveland Criminal Rule 16, or "Open Discovery," which mandates greater transparency from prosecutors in their effort to try and convict the accused.
Attorney Friedman is looking forward to his conversation with the Anti-Defamation League and is eager to offer insight and ideas that may further the effort to better our criminal justice system.
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