Bail reform in Ohio could save $67 million, and the news in criminal justice this week

“Ohio’s cash bail system is broken and the reforms pending in the General Assembly could save hard-earned taxpayer dollars while keeping our communities safe.”

A new report from Ohio’s Buckeye Institute found that proposed bail reforms could save $67 million in jail costs. The average jail bed in Ohio costs nearly $65 per day, while supervised release costs only $5 per day.  House Bill 439 would provide a risk assessment tool for use in pretrial decision-making, and require courts to collect data on bail, pretrial release, and sentencing.

“There are mountains of evidence that show having a child can be a very powerful motivator for change, so when inmates can stay connected with their families, their risk of recidivism goes down.”

Bernalillo County, New Mexico, has approved a new policy that would allow jailed women to breast-feed a child, or use a breast pump and storage facility. A bill to allow women in all of New Mexico’s jails and prisons to breastfeed was passed by both chambers in 2017 but pocket-vetoed by Governor Susana Martinez. And in New York City, city leaders announced a pilot program to allow women at Rikers Island to spend time with their families outside of jail. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan will provide creative programming for incarcerated women, their children, and custodial caregivers when it is closed to the public.

“The numbers are actually staggering.”

A one-day snapshot of inmates at the Hennepin County, Minnesota jail in December showed that nearly 20% of inmates had a history of opioid use when they came into jail, nearly all were actively abusing opioids at the time of admission, and two-thirds of that proportion had previously overdosed on opioids. Only 18 of the jail’s 851 inmates had undergone inpatient addiction treatment. The jail now provides counseling for those leaving the jail, as well as two doses of naloxone and training on how to use it.

“You can’t have an opioid crisis and cut opioid funding. You can’t just let people out of prison without some type of transition back into society.”

The Florida Department of Corrections announced Tuesday that they are cutting funding for substance abuse services, transitional housing, and reentry programs. Cuts include $7.6 million from in-prison substance abuse services, $9.1 million from reentry substance abuse and mental health treatment, $2.3 million from basic education reentry centers, and $1.6 million from transitional housing services. Officials said services had to be cut to shift money to the health care program, which is facing a $28 million deficit.

“When you restrict reading materials, you’re contributing to lower literacy rates and it limits inmates’ connections with the community.”

Federal prison officials reversed a policy that had made it harder and more expensive for prisoners to receive books. The policy, which required inmates to order books only through a prison-approved vendor, was in place in Virginia and California, and set to start in Florida this month. Officials claimed the restriction was necessary to prevent attempts to smuggle in drugs and other contraband, but also banned orders from online retailers and publishers.