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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Advocates Say Thousands of Ohio Inmates Should be Released Now

a photo of the hands of someone behind bars
Congregate settings like prisons offer opportunities for the highly contagious COVID-19 to spread rapidly.

Gov Mike DeWine says an inmate at the Pickaway Correctional Institution has died from coronavirus. Last week, a corrections officer at the Marion Correctional facility succumbed to COVID19. And hundreds of other inmates and staff members at the state’s lockups have tested positive for the virus. A dozen prisons are in full quarantine but some say the state isn’t doing enough to deal with the problem.

Gov. Mike DeWine has recommended more than 200 prisoners be released.

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.”

Stewart says the state needs 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. 

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.