Cleveland jail will release 300 nonviolent inmates to reduce coronavirus risk

Jail to release 300 nonviolent inmates to reduce coronavirus risk

Officials in Cleveland want to release up to 300 nonviolent inmates in an effort to reduce the jail population and reduce the risk of coronavirus for incarcerated prisoners.

The Cuyahoga County Jail has been targeted for the release, and Administrative Judge Benjamin Sheehan told WEWS it was important to reduce the Ohio jail’s population of 1,900 to avoid a potential COVID-19 medical emergency.

However, Sheehan stressed that public safety will not be jeopardized.

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“We don’t want the public to panic," Sheehan told WEWS. “This is not like the jail is opening the door and everyone is running out."

Cuyahoga County judges held special sessions Saturday in an attempt to settle cases with guilty pleas, release inmates or put them under house arrest, WJW reported.

“You’ve got to remember, the goal of this is to protect the community and the safety of the inmates," Sheehan told the television station. “If someone’s a serious violent person, well, we’re using our discretion to make sure the community’s safe also."

Sheehan said the jail may need empty space if an inmate tests positive for the novel coronavirus.

“It’s not a matter of if this virus hits, it’s when this virus hits our jail,” Sheehan told WEWS. “If it hits right now, the sheriff is going to be crippled, and he’s going to be looking at me and saying we’ve got to order people out of jail.

"At least now we’re doing it in a systematic approach and judges are able to use their discretion.”

Cleveland officials were seeking ways to reduce the jail population amid fears of the coronavirus outbreak.
Cleveland officials were seeking ways to reduce the jail population amid fears of the coronavirus outbreak. (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)