Approximately 73 percent of the inmate population, plus 109 members of staff, at an Ohio prison have tested positive for coronavirus.
Statistics from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction (ODRC) reveal that the entire Marion Correction Institution is in quarantine but 1,828 people in isolation due to their COVID-19 diagnosis, it leaves only 667 inmates separated.
In addition to the 2,495 incarcerated at the facility, 109 members of staff have the virus. One employee, 55-year-old correctional officer John Dawson, died April 8. He had worked at the prison since 1996. Eight staff members have recovered.
The staggering figures are released amid calls for prisoners across the state to go free as coronavirus spreads rapidly behind bars.
Three quarters of inmates and 109 staff at Ohio’s Marion Correction Institution have coronavirus
At Marion Correction Institution, 1,828 people are in isolation with COVID-19 and 20 prisons across the state are in full quarantine
Concern centers around the availability of space to practice social distancing.
The Department of Rehabilitation & Correction (DRC) has taken an aggressive and unique approach to testing, which includes mass testing of all staff and inmates at the Marion Correctional Institution, the Pickaway Correctional Institution, and the Franklin Medical Center (which is Ohio’s medical facility for inmates).
Housing at all of those facilities is a combination of cells and bays, the ODRC mentions in its report.
At Pickaway, 380 inmates are in isolation and the remaining 1614 are in quarantine after 384 tested positive for the disease. Sixty four members of staff have tested positive and two have recovered. There were five confirmed COVID-19 related inmate deaths and one probable.
At Franklin, 102 inmates are in isolation after 103 tested positive. Forty six staff members tested positive. There has been one confirmed COVID-19 related inmate death.
At Franklin Medical Center, 102 inmates are in isolation after 103 tested positive. Forty six staff members tested positive. There has been one confirmed COVID-19 related inmate death
The state has reduced meals from three to two daily, blocked visitors and made telephone and video calls free, plus inmates are allowed to wear cloth masks.
Staff and vendors must undergo temperature checks before entering.
One inmate said that even before the outbreak, hygiene at the facility was a problem.
‘The thing that irritates me most is they want to do everything with the same gloves on,’ inmate Daniel Phipps, who is paralyzed from the waist down, told WOSU. ‘They do not change their gloves at all. And I’m not talking about just one or two of ’em, I’d say 70% of them do not change their gloves on the regular.’
‘Even just looking at my bed right, now there’s stuff caked up all in it, dirt, so if you easily catch infections and you just had a surgery, this is really not the place you want to be,’ pregnant inmate Lacey Carroll said. ‘A lot of people get infections after surgery here, abscesses.’
Correctional officer Michael Rider claimed most of the staff there that had contracted coronavirus had been guarding COVID-positive inmates that had been transferred to the Wexner Medical Center for care which only has 23 beds.
He has urged for more personal protective equipment.
At Pickaway, 380 inmates are in isolation and the remaining 1614 are in quarantine after 384 tested positive for the disease. Sixty four members of staff have tested positive and two have recovered. There were five confirmed COVID-19 related inmate deaths and one probable
‘I don’t care if I’m in the room or outside of the room, if I’m there, I want an N-95 mask,’ Rider said. ‘I’m not getting that. Our staff is not getting that. Our staff is becoming ill.’
Jennifer Clayton, head of health and holistic services at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said she had not been notified about the conditions inmates complained about.
‘I do not agree that it is uncleanly, it certainly wasn’t last time I was there,’ ODRC director Annette Chambers-Smith added. ‘I think the health care staff and custody staff at the Franklin Medical Center are doing a very good job.’
The DRC started mass testing on April 11 and results are still pending. Twenty prisons are under full quarantine, totaling 29,974 inmates.
As of Sunday, there were 2,426 confirmed cases throughout the entire prison system in the state. That’s approximately 21 percent of the wider Ohio population.
A total of 244 staff are infected across the state where there are 12.727 employees – 6,655 corrections officers, 491 parole officers and some 2,000 medical workers.
In Ohio, there were 11,602 cases and 471 deaths as of Monday morning.
The DRC noted 637 had tested negative.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine enforced shutdowns in March and has said he plans to start reopening the economy May 1. He has recommended the release of 205 individuals who are deemed vulnerable. It’s only 0.4% of the prison population which with 49,000 people, is at 130% capacity
‘Because we are testing everyone – including those who are not showing symptoms – we are getting positive test results on individuals who otherwise would have never been tested because they were asymptomatic,’ the DRC explained. ‘The total tested and total pending are part of the large mass testing currently underway.’
The figures were released after protestors took to the Statehouse this weekend to demand the reopening of the economy.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine enforced shutdowns in March and has said he plans to start reopening the economy May 1.
‘They were protesting against me yesterday, and that’s just fine,’ DeWine told Meet the Press. ‘We’re going to do what we think is right, and that is try to open this economy, but do it very, very carefully.’
He hopes tripling testing will enable them to go ahead with reopening businesses in a safe way.
Vice President Mike Pence has said 150,000 tests are being done across the country each day. However House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has maintained that not enough testing has been done.
Protesters hold up signs outside of the Ohio State House in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday to protest the stay home order that is in effect until May 1
‘I could probably double – maybe even triple – testing in Ohio virtually overnight if the FDA would prioritize companies that are putting a slightly different formula together for the extraction reagent kit,’ DeWine told moderator Chuck Todd Sunday.
‘We have a worldwide shortage of some of the materials that go into this. We really need help. If anybody in the FDA is watching, this would really take our capacity up literally, Chuck, overnight. That’s what we need in Ohio.’
Governor DeWine has recommended the release of 205 individuals who are deemed vulnerable. It’s only 0.4% of the prison population which with 49,000 people, is at 130% capacity.
Those being considered for release tend to be inmates over 60, nearing the end of their sentence and non-violent offenders.
‘We know the coronavirus spreads quickly in closed spaces like nursing homes and cruise ships. Incarceration facilities are no different, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s Joselyn Rosnick previously said in a statement.
‘These are spaces where people eat, sleep and live in close quarters. Social distancing is impossible, and basic hygiene items are in short supply. We cannot overstate the need for a bold state-level order to directly and meaningfully reduce incarcerated populations. Countless lives are on the line.’