Gov. Mike DeWine is asking county judges to hold hearings for the possible release of inmates who are pregnant, recently gave birth, or over the age of 60 with little time left in their sentence.
DeWine says he wants judges to consider these inmates for possible release as a way to protect pregnant women, recently born babies, and elderly people who are high-risk to coronavirus.
"What we're doing is we're trying to be very careful. Very respectful of the local courts. Very respectful of the local victims. Very respectful of public safety," says DeWine.
There is a total of 48,991 people in Ohio's prisons as of Friday. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has already implemented several protocols under DeWine's guidance in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
This includes no longer allowing visitations, screening anyone who enters a prison, and requiring a five-week separation period in reception before a new inmate can enter the prison.
"If this is the start of a broader release, it’s a step in the right direction. But it’s nowhere near what's needed -- we need to move much more quickly to release broad categories of people now," says Piet van Lier, researcher for Policy Matters Ohio. "If we are 'all in this together' we need to act on that belief. Releasing 38 people in two very narrow categories doesn’t begin to address the need to reduce the population in Ohio’s prisons, which are significantly over capacity."
DeWine says he's open to more recommendations but not sex offenders or violent criminals.