COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday a plan to release some state prison inmates early to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the state’s correctional facilities.
DeWine said the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is sending letters to judges around the state, suggesting they may want to review 38 specific prisoners for possible early release.
“Whenever we have a gathering of people during this coronavirus crisis, we worry about it,” DeWine said. “And so prisons are, by their nature, are a gathering of a number of people.”
DeWine said the prisoners under consideration for release are not being held for violent, sexual, or domestic violence crimes. The prisoners were also screened for any major infractions while incarcerated or outstanding warrants in other states.
“We screened out in the process a lot of different people,” DeWine said.
The prisoners under consideration for release include 23 women who are either pregnant or recently gave birth inside the prison.
The other 15 prisoners are over the age of 60 and are within 60 days of release.
“We’ve gone through a pretty elaborate screening process for all of these,” DeWine said.
The judge will review the cases and make the decision as to whether the prisoner can be released early, DeWine said.
The governor said the prison system has put steps in place to protect prisoners some time ago.
Those steps include no in-person visitation, daily employee and contractor screening, and not allowing in new inmates who may be showing symptoms of the virus.
“There’s not system that is prefect,” DeWine said. “We are seeing the problems that are occurring in other states, and so we know this can occur.”
There are 48,991 inmates statewide as of Friday.
DeWine said the hearings could start in the next couple of days.