There has been at least one inmate and one correction officer dead due to the coronavirus in prisons run by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC). Around 16,000 prisoners across the state have been put under 12 prison-wide quarantines. Only 435 ORDC have been tested while 146 tested positive for coronavirus so far. Around 199 staff members also have been tested positive in prisons of ORDC.
The department is running 50,000 inmates as some advocates in Ohio says the number is over capacity by 10,000. Advocates and activists are calling Governor Mike DeWine to release the prisoners who have high risks of getting diagnosed with coronavirus. DeWine has recommended around 200 prisoners for the release.
According to Fox News Piet van Lier, a researcher with the liberal think tank Policy Matters Ohio suggests that locking down prisons will not save the lives of prisoners but make the condition even worse. There is not enough space to keep a safe distance where 49,000 people are being kept in the facility designed for 38,000.
"The total of 205 people the governor has recommended for release won't create the kind of conditions or flexibility needed to flatten the curve in prisons, which is what's needed to protect incarcerated people, prison workers and the broader community," he added.
Prisoners condition in Ohio
President of Ohio Civil Services Employees Association, Christopher Mabe says that there is a lack of direction, lack of leadership from top to bottom addressing towards Governor Mike DeWine. He said that ORDC has a huge number of inmates and fewer staff members which makes the whole system overtasked.
No beds in the prisons are unoccupied as prisoners sleep on bunker beds that are less than three feet away from each other. ORDC also confirmed the meals also have been reduced to twice a day. Spokesperson JoEllen Smith justifies by saying that two meals have roughly equivalent calories of three meals.
Inmates raised another issue that medical personnel deny the testing unless inmates exhibit every symptom of coronavirus. Inmates are hesitant to report COVID-19 symptoms out of fear that they will be thrown into isolation quarters usually used for punishment, Fox News reported. Individuals who test positive are kept under medical isolation and necessary medical treatment is provided. "Speciality care and hospitalization services are provided at either local hospitals or the Ohio State University Medical Center," says the spokesperson.