Cuyahoga Judges Must Act on Judicial Releases and Bail Reform

Cuyahoga County Judges

Our demands:

1. Hear all of the judicial release motions on your docket in a timely manner.
We have been made aware that the public defender’s office alone has filed several hundred judicial release motions on behalf of currently incarcerated individuals, but very few of these have been heard by judges. We ask that they utilize phone and video conferencing to hear these motions as quickly as possible and do everything within their power to ensure that motions are not only heard within the standard timeframe, but within a shorter timeframe than normal. Lives are on the line and people cannot afford to wait.

2. Immediately release everyone from the County Jail who does not pose an identifiable threat of harm to the community without imposing payment and enact permanent and sweeping bail reform.
It is more critical than ever that judges keep people out of jail and lead the way on bail reform. Cuyahoga County spends millions every year jailing people accused of low-level crimes while their cases are resolved in court just because they cannot afford their bail. Lack of financial resources should never be the deciding factor in a person’s freedom - especially not when incarceration presents a serious threat to a person’s health and safety.

3. If you must deny any release motions, to not deny them with prejudice.
Being denied “with prejudice” means that the defendant is unable to file a motion for judicial release again. Incarcerated people should not lose their opportunity to reapply for release in the future because they utilized one of the only options available to them to seek safety during a global pandemic.


Now, more than ever, we cannot wait for change and we cannot accept the complacency of those with the power to enact it.

As our entire country faces a reckoning with its history and present reality of white supremacy, police brutality, and the violence of mass incarceration, it is inescapably clear that transformative structural changes are needed, particularly within our justice system. If we want to live in a world where everyone has a fair opportunity to succeed, we must change the racist and classist policies that have held people down for generations, and imagine new ways of practicing justice that seek to heal and rehabilitate, rather than punish for the sake of punishment.

In the past several months, dozens of people have died in Ohio prisons due to the pandemic. Prison should not be a death sentence. Despite many sectors of the economy beginning to reopen, people in prison are still sick and suffering and living in conditions which are inconducive to any rehabilitation. In order to save lives, we need to let people who have been identified as minimum security come home. This whole situation could have been prevented, and starkly highlights the colossal failures and cruelties of our system of incarceration.

In 2018 the US marshal declared the Cuyahoga County Jail “inhumane” and “one of the worst in the country.” In the span of 11 months from 2018 into 2019, 9 people died in the Jail’s inhumane and overcrowded conditions. And yet, two years after the first death took place in June of 2018, as COVID-19 continues to ravage prison and jail populations, we have yet to see any progress on bail reform - if not now, when?


To: Cuyahoga County Judges
From: [Your Name]

For the health and safety of our incarcerated neighbors and loved ones and the entire community, we demand that Cuyahoga County Judges do the following:

1) Hear all of the judicial release motions on your docket in a timely manner.
We have been made aware that the public defender’s office alone has filed several hundred judicial release motions on behalf of currently incarcerated individuals, but very few of these have been heard by judges. We ask that they utilize phone and video conferencing to hear these motions as quickly as possible and do everything within their power to ensure that motions are not only heard within the standard timeframe, but within a shorter timeframe than normal. Lives are on the line and people cannot afford to wait.

2) Immediately release everyone from the County Jail who does not pose an identifiable threat of harm to the community without imposing payment and enact permanent and sweeping bail reform.
It is more critical than ever that judges keep people out of jail and lead the way on bail reform. Cuyahoga County spends millions every year jailing people accused of low-level crimes while their cases are resolved in court just because they cannot afford their bail. Lack of financial resources should never be the deciding factor in a person’s freedom - especially not when incarceration presents a serious threat to a person’s health and safety.

3) If you must deny any release motions, do not deny them with prejudice
Being denied “with prejudice” means that the defendant is unable to file a motion for judicial release again. Incarcerated people should not lose their opportunity to reapply for release in the future because they utilized one of the only options available to them to seek safety during a global pandemic.