Drug Policy Press Release

04.29.20

ACLU of Ohio Files Public Records Requests for DeWine Administrations’ Knowledge of Potential COVID-19 Outbreaks in Prisons

Gavel Laying On Side

COLUMBUS— Today the ACLU of Ohio filed public records requests with Governor DeWine’s office seeking information on what the governor’s COVID-19 prison efforts and his knowledge of the potentially catastrophic impact of the deadly virus on prisons and the communities surrounding them.

The ACLU of Ohio’s records requests follow the release of a first-of-its-kind epidemiological model that shows that as many as 200,000 people could die from COVID-19 — double the government estimate — if the federal government and states fail to release people from jails as part of the public health efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of April 28, there have been 3,884 positive infections and 25 deaths in ODRC facilities.

The ACLU of Ohio is seeking:

  1. Any and all records containing recommendations, proposals, calculations, forecasts, plans, and procedures, currently in use and not in use, for:
    1. Accomplishing social distancing
    2. Reducing Ohio’s prison population, related to COVID-19 concerns
    3. Reducing Ohio’s prison population, related to COVID-19 concerns, using executive, legal or statutory methods and powers
  2. Any and all records containing information regarding the reentry of individuals released from Ohio prisons back into their community.
    1. Specifically, broad plans, recommendations, proposals, calculations, and best practices as well as, correspondence with state and local reentry groups, organizations, and professionals.
  3. Any and all records sent or received regarding the formal deployment of the Ohio National Guard in any Ohio prison and FCI Elkton.
    1. Specifically, information about the Ohio National Guard’s duties, mandates, and restrictions (if any) on duties performed in the Ohio prison context.

“Public health experts have rung multiple alarm bells about the spread of COVID-19 in our prison system. Despite those warnings, the decarceration of jails, prisons, and other detention facilities continues much too slowly to avoid catastrophe, noted Gary Daniels, Chief Lobbyist for the ACLU of Ohio. “The ACLU of Ohio seeks greater understanding regarding Ohio’s response to COVID-19 and mass incarceration, including actions taken – and not taken – by Governor DeWine.”

“We warned Governor DeWine that COVID-19 would spread like wildfire behind bars, and it is. Marion Correctional Institution is reported to have the largest number of positive cases in the entire United States. Despite this information, Governor DeWine has only released about 1% of Ohio’s total prison population, which is already over capacity by over 10,000 people. These requests will allow us to see the bigger picture,” concluded Jocelyn Rosnick, Policy Director for the ACLU of Ohio.

Read the public record’s request.