COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Four inmates inside the Ohio prison system have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Annette Chambers-Smith seeking better conditions inside the facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit seeks to reduce the prison population by just under one-third, citing health and other diagnoses that make those prisoners susceptible to catching the virus.
“Ohio’s prisoner population exceeds 48,000 individuals,” the lawsuit states. “The number of prisoners currently diagnosed with relevant medical conditions is not available, but according to the ODRC’s 2019 Annual Report more than 15,000 prisoners were diagnosed with relevant medical conditions.”
According to the lawsuit, those health conditions include lung disease and asthma, a heart condition, diabetes, liver disease and AIDS/HIV, among others.
In addition, the lawsuit seeks to have the state release prisoners who meet the following criteria:
- Serving a sentence for one or more fifth or fourth-degree felonies
- Serving a sentence for a third-degree felony if it is their first felony conviction, or the prisoners has served a minimum of half their sentence
- Serving a sentence for first or second-degree felonies or a mandatory term for a violent offense if the prisoner is 55-years-old or older and the prisoner has served ten years or two-thirds of their sentence, whichever is greater.
- Serving a sentence for aggravated murder, murder, or rape if the prisoner is at a security level not higher than two, is 55 or older, and has served 10 years or two-third of their sentence, whichever is greater.
- Serving a sentence for any felony who have been a level one security level for five or more years, is serving a non-mandatory term, is 46 years or older, and has served eight years or half of their sentence, whichever is greater.
- Serving a sentence for any non-violent drug offense
The lawsuit states the releases would make social distancing more feasible in the Ohio corrections system.
The lawsuit also asks the state to impose proper physical distancing of six feet between prisoners; create a safety plan to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks; access to proper cleaning products; accelerate parole hearings and re-hearings; testing for all prisoners and correctional staff; provide face masks for all prisoners; and other items of relief.
The full lawsuit is available below.
As of Saturday, there were 969 inmates currently testing positive for COVID-19 and 60 deaths. In total, there have been 4,505 inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19, with 3,382 inmates recovering from the virus.