For Immediate Release | April 21, 2020
As Ohio experiences two of nation’s four largest Coronavirus outbreaks, Court of Appeals Judge encourages leadership from fellow judiciary members
Use judicial powers to safely remove people from prison to protect Ohio communities
COLUMBUS – The Alliance for Safety and Justice urged judges and prosecutors in Ohio to help Gov. Mike DeWine prevent the spread of COVID-19 by taking action within their authority to reduce incarceration in state prisons. Sentencing judges in Ohio have the authority to initiate judicial release proceedings that can result in the release of people being held in state prisons who pose no substantial public safety risk. Ohio recently became the home of the country’s largest Coronavirus outbreak, with nearly 2,000 cases at the Marion Correctional Institution, a state prison in Marion. The outbreak is nearly triple the number of infections at the next biggest outbreak at the Smithfield Foods meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Ohio also has the nation’s fourth largest outbreak at Pickaway Correctional Institution in Scioto Township.
“Each day brings more alarming news about the spread of COVID-19 in Ohio’s prisons, and we have reached a moment of crisis now with the country’s largest Coronavirus outbreak in our state,” said Shakyra Diaz, Ohio State Director for the Alliance for Safety and Justice. “All public health evidence points to the need to reduce unnecessary incarceration in jails and prisons to curb the spread of the virus in these confined and overpopulated environments that places everyone at risk. Ohio must swiftly take action to reduce the populations of its overcrowded prisons that are needlessly endangering everyone across our state. The elderly, people with serious medical conditions, and those who pose no public safety risk and would be better served elsewhere — like those in prison just because of an addiction — don’t have to remain at high risk of contracting and spreading the virus. By maintaining overcrowded facilities, we not only endanger people detained, but also those working there, along with their families and communities to which they return.”
“All government leaders have a shared responsibility to prioritize the health and safety of Ohioans during this pandemic, including those in charge of the justice system and sentencing. We urge judges and local prosecutors to support efforts to protect our state by identifying all who can responsibly be removed from prison and initiating accelerated judicial release proceedings to safely reduce the prison population,” continued Diaz. “A number of judges, prosecutors and sheriffs have already taken steps in this direction on the local level, yet there is more that can be done now to help protect the health of people in Ohio. Judges and prosecutors are in the position to help stop the spread of Coronavirus in jails and prisons from endangering our state. It is critical that every public official with the power to do more to protect Ohio against these hotspots take action.”
Judge Larry A. Jones of the 8th District Court of Appeals in Cleveland stated: “We all have a role to play in protecting Ohio from COVID-19, including judges who have the power to safely reduce incarceration in crowded jails and prisons. Every judge in Ohio should take leadership by using every possible opportunity to lessen the burden on our jails and state prisons. We can help support the DeWine administration in protecting the health of all Ohioans.”
ABOUT ALLIANCE FOR SAFETY AND JUSTICE
The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a national organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. It partners with leaders to advance state reform through networking, coalition building, research, education and advocacy. It also brings together diverse crime survivors to advance policies that help communities most harmed by crime and violence, as part of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice – its national network of over 42,000 crime survivors with thousands of members in Ohio.
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