#23: Video Fridays in 60 Seconds — Coronavirus, Facemasks, and Early Release

ARTWORK: “Who’s That Girl?” By (OH) Anonymous, is a pencil work from a photograph of the niece of a convict serving time in Ohio.

In a strange way this week I discovered what it must be like to live in that one walled in commune in a post-apocalyptic world that you see in the movies. While the world out there is succumbing evermore to coronavirus, strangely the 1,200 person community I live in behind these razor wire fences is like an oasis. The only thing missing are zombies wandering outside the perimeter.

I’d imagine that once cases start popping up here, this will quickly become the last place anyone would want to be. Hopefully it’s not an inevitability. To prevent that, this week the director announced that individual Ohio prisons will be making face masks for us inmates if individual facilities can obtain the cloth materials. We will be permitted to wear them if they become available. I think this is an excellent idea, as the evidence out there now supports the use of face masks even if you are not yet sick. Since these masks will be made from scratch by inmates from raw materials, it doesn’t take away from existing supplies out there that our front line workers need.

In an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus in state prisons, Ohio is implementing procedures for early release of low level offenders who are already near their release dates. This follows states like CA, WA, TX, IA, and TN who have already released thousands of offenders from county jails and prisons, or are in the process of doing so. This is the right thing to do. If COVID-19 makes it into our facilities, with an aging inmate population, the death rate would be high because many inmates suffer from underlying conditions.

The library has been closed, and we have access to limited chapel services due to the state order to limit gatherings to 10 people or less. It was a wise move by authorities. These communal areas are perfect grounds to spread coronavirus, and the less we have to deal with situations like that, the better.

Ohio is just now starting to experience a surge in cases, and unlike NY, LA, MI, IL and MD we still have a short window to prepare. If you ask nearly any inmate here, they’ll say that The Governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, and the Director of Ohio Prisons, Ms. Annette Chambers-Smith, are doing a good job handling the crisis. I too agree. It’s in stark contrast to a state like NY, where cases of coronavirus are surging in their jails and prisons from lax oversight and implementation.


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