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Advocates Say Thousands of Ohio Inmates Should be Released Now

a photo of the hands of someone behind bars
SAKHORN
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SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
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.