Advocates For Prisoners In Ohio's Lockups Say Thousands Should Be Released Now

Apr 13, 2020

Ohio has its first inmate death due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Mike DeWine says an inmate at the Pickaway Correctional Institution has passed away. Last week, a corrections officer at the Marion Correctional Institution died from the illness.

Gov. Mike DeWine has recommended more than 200 prisoners be released from Ohio’s lockups to help protect those inmates as well as corrections workers. But advocates for those behind bars say much more needs to be done. 

Advocates for inmates including the ACLU and Policy Matters Ohio say there are thousands of non-violent offenders who are near the end of their sentences. And former U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart says many should be released now. 

“We’re not advocating for anybody and everybody to be released. I personally think there should be a careful screening of folks who may pose a danger if they are released so we do want to protect in that sense," Stewart says.

Stewart wants the state to weigh the dangers of releasing the inmates versus keeping them in prison.

The advocates recommend putting inmates being released on strict parole or similar measures to make sure these inmates serve out the rest of their sentences. But families and supporters of inmates say social distancing cannot be done in Ohio’s prisons, which are at 128% capacity. 

A dozen of Ohio's 28 prisons are on full quarantine. Hundreds of staffers and inmates in various Ohio prisons have tested positive for COVID19. And DeWine has ordered up to 30 members of Ohio's National Guard to help out at the health center inside the Pickaway County prison because a dozen of the employees who work there are ill and not able to report to work right now.