Ohio moves forward on plan to reopen some prisons for visitation, despite a rise in coronavirus cases statewide

Ohio moves forward on plan to reopen some prisons for visitation, despite a rise in COVID-19 cases

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Despite a rise in coronavirus cases, some state prisons are reopening to visitors.

The state says it is beginning by opening the prisons in counties where COVID cases are the lowest.

But, not all inmates are placed in the prison closest to their home, meaning their visitors could be traveling from high risk areas, potentially bringing the virus with them.

“With the numbers that are being reported, more cases more cases more cases, I am kind of surprised,” William Anderson said.

Anderson runs a cab company. Part of his business is called the Jailbird Express. He takes families to go see loved ones in state prisons.

“I just try to make the best out of a bad situation,” he said.

As of early this week, the state says 155 inmates have COVID 19. More than 4,200 are reported to have recovered after contracting the virus.

For months, visitors haven’t been allowed at state prisons in an effort to decrease the chance of spreading infection. Some inmates have even been released to decrease the population.

But, since state numbers show the coronavirus is getting in cells despite the precautions, Anderson doesn’t see a problem resuming visitation.

“Let’s get the show on the road. These inmates need their families now more than they ever had before,” he said.

A spokesperson says prisons below the Ohio Public Health Advisory System’s level three are allowed to have visitors.

But, if the surrounding community is bumped up to a level three or four, the visitation gets suspended again.

For example, the Grafton Correctional Institution in our viewing area was supposed to open this Sunday.

When Lorain County moved in to a level three emergency recently, those plans fell through.

That happened to two other facilities.

The state put out a tentative schedule of when each prison will open if possible.
The state put out a tentative schedule of when each prison will open if possible. (Source: State of Ohio)

Anderson likely won’t get any business driving people to those prisons in high risk areas for a while.

But, he could still take people from say Cuyahoga County, where coronavirus cases are high, to The Ohio State Penitentiary or the Madison Correctional Institution, where cases in the area are low.

Is that safe?

Anderson responded to that question with a question.

“Well, is it safe to step outside your house? Is it safe to walk across the street? Is it safe to walk into a bank?” he said.

It can be hard to say.

Copyright 2020 WOIO. All rights reserved.