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ACLU: Ohio Legislature Not Addressing COVID-19 'Human Rights Crisis' in Prisons

Marion Correctional Institution
Marion Correctional Institution is one penitentiary in Ohio's prison system. The ACLU of Ohio says that as more bills were proposed, some of which were made into laws, that could send more people to prison, no legislation was passed to reduce the prison population during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though last year state lawmakers were caught up mostly in COVID-19 and the scandal involving Republican former Speaker Larry Householder and the nuclear bailout law, there were still a lot of bills that sought to toughen penalties on crime. But advocates for the state’s inmates say prisons are still overcrowded, and nothing’s being done about that.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says nearly one-tenth of the almost 2,000 bills proposed by state lawmakers over the past two years could have sent more people to prisons. But only nine were enacted. And Gary Daniels with the ACLU of Ohio says none would have imprisoned a lot more people, but he’s also concerned about those that would make serious crimes out of actions taken by a small number of offenders.

“That 10 over here and five over there and 15 over there – that’s part of how we get to this larger problem is not only those big bills but the constant onslaught of smaller bills,” Daniels said.

But he also says there were no bills to reduce the prison population, though at least 130 inmates and 10 prison staff have died of COVID-19 over the past year.

“Not a single one of those almost 1,200 bills had anything to do with our prison population and getting people out of prison and making our prisons safer as a result of the ongoing human rights crisis in Ohio prisons as it relates to COVID-19,” Daniels said.