Federal judge orders Elkton officials to evaluate prisoners, move inmates out


The judge said it's likely that far more inmates have coronavirus as the federal government has provided Elkton with a "paltry number" of tests

Elkton federal prison, Columbiana County

Credit: WKBN

(WKBN) – A federal judge is giving officials at the Elkton federal prison one day to identify their medically-vulnerable prisoners and transfer eligible inmates out of the facility.

It comes after a class action habeas petition filed by the ACLU of Ohio and the Ohio Justice and Policy Center on April 16 following an outbreak of COVID-19 cases within the prison.

The Federal Bureau of Prison’s website reports 52 Elkton inmates and 48 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus. Six inmates have died.

According to the judge’s order, it’s likely that far more inmates have coronavirus as the federal government has provided Elkton with a “paltry number” of tests.

To date, Elkton has only received 50 swab tests and one machine with 25 rapid tests, according to the order.

There are 2,400 inmates in the prison.

As of Wednesday, 52 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 and six have died. Forty-eight staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

The judge says while staff members are taking steps to prevent the spread, with inmates living in such close quarters, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to totally control it.

David Carey, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Ohio applauded the decision by Judge James Gwin, of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Ohio.

“Countless lives will be saved as a result of this order. Even since we filed our class action the death toll at Elkton has doubled. Judge Gwin was absolutely correct in recognizing the dire situation at Elkton and we are eager to assist and facilitate the release of the members of the medically vulnerable class,” Carey said.

Judge Gwin asked that older prisoners with heart, pulmonary, diabetes or immunity risks should be given priority review. They can be transferred out through compassionate release, parole, community supervision, transfer furlough or non-transfer furlough.

Those transferred out must be under quarantine for 14 days and cannot return to Elkton until the threat of the virus spread is over or until a vaccine is available, according to a news release from the ACLU.

You can read the full order here.

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