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Ohio Tracking Spread Of COVID-19 At State, Federal Prisons

Office of Gov. Mike DeWine
Gov. Mike DeWine holds up a cloth face mask

Gov. Mike DeWine is authorizing the Ohio National Guard to go help a federal prison located in the state. He's also considering the possibility of more release recommendations for Ohio's prisons.

The Elkton Federal Correctional Institution, in Columbiana County, has reported seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three deaths among the inmates. DeWine says leaders with the Ohio National Guard were sent to analyze the situation, they returned to report the institution was understaffed.

"The guard came back as well as our health department came back and said there is no doubt that this prison needs help," says DeWine.

About 25 members of the Ohio National Guard will be sent to Elkton's infirmary on a medical mission. DeWine says the service members will not be armed and will not play a role as security at the prison.

The governor is also asking the U.S. Department of Justice and the federal prison system to stop sending new inmates.

"That's something that we feel very, very strongly about," says DeWine. "When an outbreak inside the prison takes place it's certainly not the time to introduce new inmates to that population."

DeWine says Elkton is a federal prison and decisions made at that correctional institution is outside of the state's jurisdiction.

However, DeWine says they are tracking the spread of COVID-19 in Ohio's prisons as well.

On Monday, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reported 10 confirmed cases of the coronavirus among the inmates, 5 in Marion Correctional Institution and 5 in Pickaway Correctional Institution. DeWine says there are also 27 staff members from four different facilities with the virus, with most cases coming out of Marion.

DeWine says his administration is looking into the possible recommended release of more categories of inmates. He says they're evaluating inmates who are charged with non-violent crimes and are scheduled to be released soon.

"Freeing that space will enable the director and her wardens to better deal with the situations," DeWine says.

He has already suggested the release of 38 inmates who are pregnant, recently had a baby, or over the age of 60. Those recommendations are sent to county judges who can then decide to hold hearings for possible release.

The state has ordered its prisons to test inmates when they show symptoms, screen anyone entering the facilities, and to prohibit visitations.

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