LULAC Ohio voices concern for health and safety in Morrow County Jail, others in Ohio

Columbus, Ohio – May 14, 2020

LULAC Ohio continues voicing its concern for the health and safety of residents and staff at the Morrow County Jail and other correctional facilities in Ohio. With a jail population of 79 inmates, the Morrow County Jail has reported more than 50 cases of COVID-19, and it’s unclear how well prepared the jail system is to handle this outbreak and deal with preventable deaths.

As recently reported by the Columbus Dispatch:

“A total of 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been linked to the Morrow County jail, Morrow County Health District Commissioner Stephanie Bragg said Tuesday. The jail first reported a case of COVID-19 around April 23 or 24, and coronavirus cases have climbed since then, according to court filings.”

The Dispatch story also highlights a legal complaint filed by ACLU Ohio requesting the release of 20 immigrants held by ICE at the Morrow facility, some of whom have underlying medical conditions and who, attorneys argue, are at a heightened risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 now that the jail has become a hotbed of COVID-19:

“As public health experts forewarned, the Morrow County jail has become an infected, dangerous place to be,” said ACLU of Ohio Staff Attorney Elizabeth Bonham. “There is no way to make this facility safe. Our clients can and should be moved out where they can safely isolate or quarantine, as required, and where they can access care.”

While jail authorities have publicly stated that inmates are receiving medical attention and the best care possible, testimony presented in open court this past Monday reflects otherwise. Three detainees testified that conditions in the Morrow County Jail make it impossible to get proper medical care and practice appropriate social distancing.

During the court testimony detainees indicated that their symptoms can’t be monitored properly and sometimes they are unable to get basic medicine like Tylenol. They also informed that jail staff doesn’t clean their cells regularly and they get clean clothes every three or four days. It has also been reported that a recently released detainee has died from COVID-19.

LULAC Ohio officers have been in contact with Ohio authorities advocating for the safety and health of residents and staff at Morrow County Jail. So far the responses received have not satisfied our genuine concerns for the lives of correction personnel and for the vulnerable population of inmates and detainees.

Alicia Pagán

LULAC Ohio State Director

Lourdes Ribera

LULAC Ohio Deputy State Director