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The Bail Project in Cleveland is gathering hundreds of examples to show cash bail is not necessary

Photo of Bail Project panel at City Club of Cleveland
City Club of Cleveland
Moderator Ayesha Bell Hardaway, Bail Project CEO David Gaspar and Bail Project founder Robin Steinberg at a City Club of Cleveland panel on March 22, 2023.

The Bail Project in Cleveland launched in 2018. Since then, the national non-profit has assisted about 1,000 Cuyahoga County clients by posting their bail.

The Bail Project’s CEO, David Gaspar, appeared at the City Club of Cleveland on Wednesday, along with founder Robin Steinberg.

Gaspar and Steinberg argued their project is proving its point – cash bail is unnecessary.

“One of the things that over 5 years the Bail Project has been able to amass is a national database,” Steinberg said they’ve posted bail for about 28,000 people. “That has proven that when somebody has no financial interest in the bail money, meaning we post the bail with donated dollars, people come back to a minimum of 92% of their court appearances.”

Steinberg said the rate is higher in Cuyahoga County – about 94 percent.

Gaspar described some of the other data they’ve collected on Cuyahoga County as “staggering.”

For instance, it takes their employees in Cuyahoga County, known as “bail disruptors,” on average 8 days to get someone who’s being held before trial out of jail.

It takes, on average, about 4 months in Cuyahoga County for those cases to be resolved.

“So, when you stop and you think that we’re getting people out in 8 days and they had the potential to remain in custody up to 4 months, that is staggering,” Gaspar said.

He added that about 800 people, or 80% of those served in Cuyahoga County, did not have to spend any time in jail as part of their sentence.

“We have saved Cuyahoga County almost 100,000 days of incarceration,” said Gaspar.

He said more than 200 of the Bail Project’s clients had their charges dismissed, meaning they never should have been in jail in the first place.

“Money should never be what determines who is free and who is not,” said the Bail Project’s founder, Robin Steinberg.

The Bail Project is in about 30 cities nationwide. They were co-sponsors of a recent, stalled bail reform measure in Ohio that would have decreased the reliance on cash bail.

That proposed ordinance was preempted by Issue 1, a charter amendment passed in November that requires judges to consider public safety, in addition to whether or not a person is likely to show up for their court dates, when setting bail.

The Bail Project uses donations to fund its operations, including a revolving bail fund. When people show up for court and their case is completed, the money goes back into the fund.

Steinberg told one public defender who asked the organization to come to Akron that they are unable to expand to any more cities for now.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.