Prisons

Prisoner's rights advocates are pleading for more action to help stop the deadly toll taken by the pandemic that has ravaged America's jails and prisons.

Their calls come as the country grapples with increases in cases and hospitalizations from the coronavirus, forcing states and cities to impose tougher restrictions on public gatherings.

The advocates want faster, early release of older and medically vulnerable inmates, those nearing their parole date, as well as non-violent prisoners with a track record of good behavior.

The Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio.
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

A recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests correctional facilities that resisted mass coronavirus testing for inmates erred in their decision to only test inmates with symptoms, leading to large initial undercounts.

Why Did 77 Ohio Inmates Die Of COVID-19, But Just 10 Pennsylvania Inmates?

Aug 21, 2020
At Pickaway Correctional Institution, 110 staff members and more than 1,400 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

For the first two months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., Ohio’s response set an example. Thanks to an early shutdown order, the state’s per-capita deaths from the virus as of late April were less than half of those in neighboring Pennsylvania, a state with similar demographics.

But inside the two states’ prison systems, it was a different story. 

Marion Correctional Institution is the largest hotspot of coronavirus cases in the country.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

Ohio's prisons agency says more than 20 death row inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak flaring up in just the past week.

Marion Correctional Institution is the largest hotspot of coronavirus cases in the country.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

The director of Ohio's prison system has announced that she has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Marion Correctional Institution is the largest hotspot of coronavirus cases in the country.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

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.

At Pickaway Correctional Institution, 110 staff members and more than 1,400 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

A union that represents health care workers in Ohio’s correctional facilities is demanding additional personal protective equipment and staffing policy changes due to what they call “an unacceptable level of risk” during the ongoing pandemic.

Montgomery County Jail
Montgomery County Sheriff's Department

A Dayton nonprofit and an inmate of the Montgomery County jail have filed a lawsuit against the local health department seeking action against the jail's growing COVID-19 outbreak.

The Indiana Women’s Prison has taken hard measures to contain the coronavirus. Many inmates in the prison have spent long periods locked in their cells — which have no toilets, running water or air conditioning — with limited opportunities for relief. 

As temperatures rise over the summer months, advocates and those with loved ones inside certain housing units, known as the cottages, worry about the heat and long periods of confinement. They fear it could cause health problems for the inmates, and say that the treatment amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. 

Paige Pfleger / WOSU

In January, Columbus launched a new career development program for recently incarcerated people. After months of work, and overcoming additional obstacles presented by the pandemic, the first class of participants graduated last week. 

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has blocked a lower court’s order to remove hundreds of inmates vulnerable to COVID-19 from Elkton federal prison.

The ACLU of Ohio is considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, which had previously blocked the transfer of inmates until the circuit court made its ruling.

Prison facilities across the U.S. have become hotspots for COVID-19 cases. More than 34,000 people in prisons across the U.S. have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to recent data from the Marshall Project, a nonprofit covering criminal justice. Side Effects reporters Jake Harper (WFYI, Indianapolis) and Paige Pfleger (WOSU, Ohio) joined community engagement specialist Brittani Howell to talk about covering prison outbreaks in their states.

Imagine being stuck in prison for a crime you didn't commit. And as you wait to get out, the pandemic hits. WVXU interviewed two people in that situation who are now free. They talk about their fears, joys and need for patience.

Federal Correctional Institution Elkton in Lisbon, Ohio.
Federal Bureau of Prisons

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution, Ohio's only federal prison, must begin releasing inmates to help with social distancing behind bars. 

Looking out from the Tapestry Unit onto a courtyard at the Ohio Reformatory For Women.
Gabe Rosenberg / WOSU

The Columbus nonprofit We Amplify Voices debuted a song Friday co-written by inmates in an addiction recovery program at the Ohio Reformatory for Women.

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