On April 7, 2020, Director Annette Chambers-Smith of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction recommended that certain inmates be released prior to the end of their respective sentences due to COVID-19.
Governor Dewine stated that inmates have to fit specific criteria. The following inmates will be excluded:
- Were convicted of serious charges such as sex offenses, homicide-related offenses, kidnapping, abduction, ethnic intimidation, making terroristic threats, or domestic violence
- Denied judicial release in the past
- Been incarcerated in Ohio before
- Are an inter-state offender
- Have active warrants or detainers
- Have had a serious prison rule violation in the last 5 years
Commentary: This proposed policy is likely to make Ohio prisons safer for this inmates being released, those inmates that will continue serving their sentence, as well as the correctional officers and everyone's families. In addition, society should remain safe despite the inmates' early release. Depending on the inmate, he may be placed on community control sanctions.
I am curious as to why those inmates who have been denied Judicial Release in the past would be disqualified from receiving an early release. Judicial Release is when an inmate or his attorney petitions the Court requesting to be released from prison. The applicable Ohio Revised Statute is 2929.20-Sentence Reduction Through Judicial Release. There are a number of reasons why a court may deny an inmate's petition for Judicial Release. For instance, the Court may believe that despite the inmate being eligible for Judicial Release that he has yet to serve enough time; has not used his prison time wisely; and/or has had too many prison violations.
My law office has been successful having courts grant our clients Judicial Release. We have been successful on the first try and we have been successful on the second try. It is my opinion that an inmate should not be excluded from early release due to COVID-19 because they have been denied Judicial Release in the past. The benefits greatly outweigh the risks in this scenario.