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Eliminate the cost of GPS monitoring for pretrial defendants in Cuyahoga County

Dear Administrative Judge Sheehan,

Ohio's bail system is in dire need of repair. Every day, thousands of Ohioans find themselves locked up in jail, not because of what they have done, but simply because they don’t have the money to pay cash bail.

Bail reform means adhering to the principle of innocent before proven guilty. It means ending the unconstitutional practice of wealth-based detention, releasing people from jail with the least restrictive conditions, establishing safeguards to prevent unnecessary detention, and holding judges accountable.

In the Cuyahoga County, for those who are lucky enough to be released pretrial, “freedom” often means being required to wear a bulky GPS ankle monitor. Electronic monitors are supposed to promote public safety, prevent flight, and lower the chance that someone will fail to appear in court - in reality, an electronic monitor does none of these things. This device becomes intrusive surveillance into the lives of a legally innocent defendant. It carries a stigma with the potential for job loss or even factors into a decision to plead guilty.

County residents subject to electronic monitoring pay a staggering $56 per week in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. There is little reliable research on the effectiveness of GPS monitors at the pretrial stage, and excessive fees could mean losing a job, spiraling into debt, or even risk re-incarceration. We know less intrusive alternatives exist - like phone calls and text reminders.

I urge youl to eliminate the cost of electronic monitoring for all Cuyahoga County residents. The Cleveland Municipal Court doesn't charge for its GPS Monitors, and neither should the Court of Common Pleas. Bail reform should not include extracting money from low-income people or over conditioning them under the guise of public safety.