Federal Judge Orders the Release of Medically Vulnerable and Elderly Prisoners at Elkton

Judge James Gwin agreed that the threat of COVID-19, which has already claimed the lives of six inmates at Elkton, was sufficient cause to release or relocate inmates who were susceptible

click to enlarge Elkton Federal Correctional Institution - Photo: Federal Bureau of Prisons
Photo: Federal Bureau of Prisons
Elkton Federal Correctional Institution

A Federal district court judge in Cleveland has granted an injunction requested by the ACLU of Ohio which compels officials at the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution to identify and release medically vulnerable inmates due to the spread of COVID-19.

Judge James Gwin agreed that the threat of COVID-19, which has already claimed the lives of six inmates at Elkton, was sufficient cause to release or relocate inmates who were susceptible. He has ordered that officials identify all inmates over the age of 65 and those with medical vulnerabilities. Once identified, those inmates are to be released or relocated to other facilities.

The ACLU's class-action lawsuit, filed last week, argued that social distancing was impossible at Elkton given the facility's "dorm-like" living arrangement. It also said that the relative scarcity of tests meant the extent of the virus' spread was not known and that the costs of treatment and intensive care, borne by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, was "likely multiples of what it would have cost to test each inmate and guard." 

"Our team worked really hard, literally 24 hours a day, through the weekend to prepare this case," wrote attorney Joe Mead on social media. "I honestly believe this will save lives."

The ACLU of Ohio's Senior Staff Attorney, David Carey, agreed.

“Countless lives will be saved as a result of this order," he said Wednesday, in a statement provided to the media. "Even since we filed our class action the death toll at Elkton has doubled. Judge Gwin was absolutely correct in recognizing the dire situation at Elkton and we are eager to assist and facilitate the release of the members of the medically vulnerable class."

Elkton is a low-security federal prison located in Columbiana County. It has been one of the federal correctional facilities hardest hit by COVID-19. It houses roughly 2,400 male prisoners in a main facility and satellite building. Former Cuayhoga County Commissioner Jimmy DiMora and Fyre Festival creator Billy McFarland are among those housed there.

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