Federal judge orders prison officials to expedite release of 837 Elkton inmates due to COVID-19 risks

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Updated: May. 19, 2020 at 5:42 PM EDT
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LISBON, Ohio (WOIO) - A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Bureau of Prisons to expedite the release of 837 potentially at-risk prisoners from the Elkton Federal Correction Institution in Ohio.

The order came after the court cited “poor progress” in the transfer of such prisoners to either home confinement or compassionate release.

“By thumbing their nose at their authority to authorize home confinement,” the judge wrote, the Bureau of Prisons “threaten staff and they threaten low security inmates.”

As of May 15, nearly 100 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19, and nine inmates have died.

The judge noted that testing “can only go so far in helping the institution fight the pandemic,” while social distancing “has been, and continues to be, the institution’s best hope” for fighting the disease’s spread.

As of May 8, only five prisoners had been approved for home confinement, and one qualified for compassionate release, according to the ACLU of Ohio.

The majority of the prisoners who are eligible for release are over the age of 65 with possible preexisting conditions, and none have been convicted of violent crimes.

“Just as we expect the government to respect the Constitution, we expect the government to respect federal court orders. We will continue to push on with this case to hold the government accountable for both,” said Joseph Mead, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Ohio, in a prepared statement.

Return to 19 News for updates on this developing story.

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