More than 90 Ohio prison inmates and prison staff have died of COVID-19, as of Monday. Advocates have filed lawsuits and pushed for more releases of inmates to lower overcrowding and stop the spread of the virus.
Gov. Mike DeWine said inmates are being released every day, as part of a standing order that inmates within 90 days of the end of their sentences are considered for release unless they’re a violent criminal or a sex offender.
“We continue to do that. But I’m not going to just open the gates. I think that that is an irresponsible thing to do," DeWine said.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reports that 5,118 inmates and 902 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, following mass testing in the state's prisons.
At one point, the Marion Correctional Institution was the nation's leading coronavirus hotspot.
"We’ve been aggressive with testing," DeWine says. "We’ve been aggressive with doing everything that we can in our prisons. I have pardoned a number of people. We’re doing the things that we can do in this regard and it is something that we focus on every single day.”
Prison workers have said conditions inside the state's 28 prison facilities are chaotic because of the pandemic, that they don't have enough personal protective equipment, and that employees are working long hours without relief because of schedules disrupted by quarantines.