CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Cuyahoga County Court judges are holding hearings to potentially release low-level offenders from jail to reduce risk of COVID-19.
“It’s not a matter of if this virus hits us, it’s a matter of when," said administrative judge Brendan Sheehan. "If it hits us and the jail, it will cripple our criminal justice system.”
Sheehan told 19 News on Friday that the hope is to release between 200-300 low-level offenders from the Cuyahoga County Justice Center to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the jail.
Sheehan said the jail has a population of about 1,900 and if the virus creeps in, there won’t be enough room to quarantine the infected inmates.
Some inmates would be released into the public after reaching plea deals, others could be placed on house arrest. Some inmates who are still waiting for their case to be closed could be offered plea deals that require prison time. Sheehan said the hope is for those inmates to be turned over to the Department of Corrections as soon as possible to help clear space at the jail.
Hearings are expected to take place next week.
“If this virus hits, we’d have to release people on an emergency basis,” Sheehan said, suggesting a more dangerous alternative if the county doesn’t address the issue now. “Absolutely. That could be even worse.”