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As COVID-19 cases continue to pop up across Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union wants to make sure inmates in county jails aren't subjected to unnecessary risk. The ACLU is asking county prosecutors and judges to come up with a strategy to keep jail populations down during the pandemic.

Gov. Eric Holcomb often brags about the Indiana Women’s Prison. Last year, Holcomb showed the prison off to Ivanka Trump. He’s mentioned the prison in his state of the state address and posted videos to his Facebook page. 

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. 

Scottie Edwards died of COVID-19 just weeks before he would have gotten out of the Westville Correctional Facility in Indiana.

Edwards, 73, began showing symptoms of the disease in early April, according to the accounts of three inmates who lived with him in a dormitory. He was short of breath, had chest pain, and could barely talk. He was also dizzy, sweaty and throwing up.

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Gabe Rosenberg / WOSU

Gov. Mike DeWine used his Thursday briefing on coronavirus in Ohio to provide some insight into what the state's prisons are doing to battle the pandemic within their walls.

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Andy Chow / Statehouse News Bureau

Gov. Mike DeWine said he plans to ask for the early release of 141 inmates under Ohio's Overcrowding Emergency statute in order to help reduce and stop the spread of the novel coronavirus among the state's prison population.

Report: Kentucky Incarceration Rates Worst In Region

Dec 13, 2019

A report published last week found that Kentucky’s incarceration rates are the worst in its region, topping Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

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Teenagers accused and convicted of serious crimes face harsh sentences when tried as adults.

How 'Beyond Guilt' Hopes To Help The Guilty

May 1, 2019
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The Ohio Justice and Policy Center is announcing a program that will advocate for shortening prison time for those who have plead guilty and face "excessive" prison sentences. 

A group of Democratic and Republican senators want to prohibit the use of restraints, such as shackles or handcuffs, on pregnant inmates once they've reached their third trimester.

Discrepancies in sentencing among Ohio inmates inspired a recent documentary on the inequities of the U.S. justice system.

Once again, the ACLU of Ohio is pushing for criminal justice reform with a new report on what it calls the “Statehouse to prison pipeline”. 

Alisha Floyd bounces her son Chance on her lap. He giggles and pulls her hair.

“He’s the fattest baby here,” she says, laughing.

After Florida voters decided to restore voting rights to people who have completed sentences for felony convictions, Kentucky lawmakers will once again consider the issue during the next legislative session.

Dozens of Kentucky inmates are being released this week after a state statute was declared unconstitutional. The statute required some inmates to receive an additional year of probation after their sentences were completed--even though that wasn’t part of the original sentencing plan.  

The Department of Public Advocacy challenged the statute and was granted a permanent injunction ordering the state Department of Corrections to release all individuals currently incarcerated under that part of the law.

Ohio Issue 1: The Pros And Cons

Oct 17, 2018
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On election day, Ohio voters will decide State Issue 1, which, if passed, would change drug possession felonies to misdemeanors, steering non-violent drug offenders away from prison and into treatment.

As groupsassociations, and individual polticians around Ohio line up against a statewide ballot issue to cut jail time for some drug offenders, one group remains steadfast in their support.

Ohio’s head of corrections Gary Mohr made a passionate call for sentencing reforms during a speech Friday at the City Club of Cleveland

Mohr said he’ll be leaving his post soon with a heavy heart over one issue.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

The Hamilton County Justice Center has several programs designed to help inmates with different issues. Several veterans are kept together because they can identify with each other's needs. Inmates who are about to be released are housed together as they receive counseling designed to prepare them to re-enter the world at large. The Justice Center also has a section devoted to inmates with addiction issues. That program is going to be expanded.

Opponents are fighting back against a statewide ballot measure that would reduce the penalties for drug offenders. Under Issue 1, minor drug-related offenses would not require prison time, prioritizing treatment instead. Critics say that sets a dangerous precedent.

Jennifer Dennis came from a family of correctional officers, and, as a single mom, she was grateful for her good-paying job at Little Sandy Correctional Complex in rural northeastern Kentucky.

But then her supervisor took an interest in her — and she said her dream job quickly became a nightmare.

"At first, it was like rubbing my butt, or trying to grab my boobs, or trying to pinch my tail," she said.

But then, she said, Sgt. Stephen Harper began to get more aggressive. Once, he barged through the door as she was exiting a staff bathroom.

Ohio House of Representatives website

UPDATE, 12/29: 

Former state representative Peter Beck has been released from prison, but the Ohio Attorney General's office wants the Ohio First District Court of Appeals to reconsider the decision that ended Beck's incarceration. 

The appeals court had thrown out 10 of the 13 criminal counts Beck was convicted of in August 15 and sent the case back to Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. Last week, Judge Thomas Heekin ordered Beck released from prison after serving 16 months of a four-year sentence. 

Beck's lawyer, Pierre Bergeron, said he will oppose the Ohio Attorney General's request. If the appeals court turns down the prosecution's request, the Ohio Attorney General could try to get the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the case. 

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Former state representative Peter Beck will be released from prison early, just in time for Christmas.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Heekin ruled Thursday morning in favor of Beck's motion to have his four-year prison sentence reduced to his time served, which is 16 months. Beck has been in a southeast Ohio prison since his sentencing in August 2015 on 13 felony counts.

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According to Fusion’'s 2015 documentary, “Prison Kids: A Crime Against America’'s Children,” there are roughly 60,000 children behind bars in America,– more than in any other nation. 

Commuting Sentences And Life After Clemency

Nov 22, 2016
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Earlier this month, President Barack Obama granted clemency to 72 people incarcerated on the federal level, shortening their sentences. Obama has granted a total of 944 people clemency over his presidency. 

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Each year in the United States, thousands of children are convicted of crimes and sentenced as adults to serve time in adult prisons. 

WVXU

Former state representative and Butler County Commissioner Michael Fox is out of federal prison. He is finishing his four-year sentence in home confinement. His final release date is scheduled for December 15.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

A Cincinnati State instructor is giving voice to the post-prison experiences of African Americans.

Ricardo Smith interviewed 10 recently released ex-cons in Hamilton and Butler Counties. In his dissertation for The Union Institute & University, he said not only do background checks showing felonies make it hard to find a job, but so do societal changes.

 

Ann Thompson / WVXU

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is considering the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to help patrol the grounds surrounding two Warren County prisons.

In a release, the state says:

"UAS technology could add an additional layer of security to help maintain the safety of the surrounding community and the prisons by bolstering existing perimeter security, preventing and detecting attempts of contraband entering the prison, and enhancing the monitoring of inmates who are approved to work outside the secure perimeter of the prison. "