Fewer Ohio Inmates During Pandemic, But ACLU Still Concerned

The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville
The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville [Dan Konik / Statehouse News Bureau]
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There have been 115 confirmed or probable COVID-19 inmate deaths and 7 staff deaths in Ohio’s prison system as of Dec. 6, according to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The state’s prison population has been reduced because of COVID, but advocates say the facilities are still overcrowded and dangerous. There are 44,027 inmates in Ohio prisons, according to the state, a drop of more than 10 percent from the start of the pandemic and the lowest prisoner count in 15 years.

The lower numbers are largely because courts aren’t sending people to prison and five jails can’t because of COVID rates in their communities, said Gary Daniels with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

“It begs the question of whether this is sustainable or whether the prison population is going to just right back up, and be just as overcrowded as it was before COVID-19," Daniels said. "And my suspicion is that is true.”

The ACLU has argued for the release of thousands of inmates and changes in sentencing laws.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has not released numbers on how many inmates have been freed through compassionate or judicial release.

The ACLU is also arguing the state's coronavirus vaccination plan must include people in prisons. In a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine, the group said focusing on vaccinating healthcare workers and people in congregate care, such as long-term care facilities, is "ignoring the lives of the Ohioans held in prisons, jails, and detention centers."

The letter to the governor closes: "We urge you to protect these individuals in your vaccine rollout plan to the same degree as you are protecting others living in various congregate settings."

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.


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