CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - For the first time in recent history, the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas held Saturday hearings due to the threat of COVID-19.
Saturday’s rare hearings coincide with the Cuyahoga County court’s efforts to reduce the jail’s inmate population during the ongoing coronavirus health crisis.
The court’s administrative judge, Brendan Sheehan, along with Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, said that dozens of cases were processed during Saturday’s hearings.
Twenty-eight inmates were released as a result of Saturday’s proceedings, Sheehan said.
Plea deals were met or a sentencing was delivered for other defendants, resulting in a court-supervised treatment program, probation, or a jail term at a state correctional facility to make room at the county jail.
Sheehan told 19 News on Friday that his hope is to release up to 300 low-level offenders.
“It’s not a matter of if this virus hits us. It’s a matter of when," said Sheehan. "If it hits us and the jail, it will cripple our criminal justice system.”
The county’s judges were also provided a list of inmates with health conditions that may make them vulnerable to contracting coronavirus. Those cases will be reviewed and a decision will be make on whether those inmates can be released from jail.
The Cuyahoga County Jail population is approximately 1,900 inmates, according to Sheehan.
As of Saturday afternoon, 11 people from Cuyahoga County tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Ohio Department of Health.