Coronavirus continues spread inside Cleveland-area juvenile prison

By Cory Shaffer - Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Nearly one-fifth of the youth being held at a juvenile correction outside Cleveland have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state’s youth prison system.

The Ohio Department of Youth Services reported that 16 boys and young men held at Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday. Nine staff members have also tested positive for the virus, the prison said.

Four more juveniles who showed symptoms of the virus are in isolation awaiting test results.

The statistics show the virus continues to spread inside the dormitory-style facility that as of April 1 housed 97 inmates in Highland Hills. ODYS reported on April 22 that an 18-year-old man in Cuyahoga Hills was the state’s first juvenile inmate to test positive. Since then, the virus has spread to nearly 20 percent of those inside the facility.

The 16 inmates who have tested positive, who range in age from 15 years old to 18 years old, are being held in a single unit together, spokeswoman Jill Craig said. The four juveniles awaiting test results have been placed in isolation. The entire facility has been placed in quarantine.

The virus has ravaged Ohio’s state and federal prisons. State facilities in Marion and Pickaway where a combined 3,483 inmates had tested positive as of Friday, out of 4,395 being housed in both facilities combined, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Twenty-nine inmates and two staff members at those facilities have died due to the virus, according to ODRC.

U.S. District Court Judge James Gwin ordered the Federal Bureau of Prisons last week to identify and either release or transfer to another facility those inmates at Federal Correction Institution Elkton, where an outbreak of the virus had infected more than 60 inmates and has killed at least seven.

Gwin wrote in his opinion in response to a lawsuit filed by the Ohio ACLU that Elkton’s dorm-style design “guarantees” that inmates remain in close proximity to one another, and chided the prisons bureau for not taking more drastic measures to separate inmates and procure testing to prevent the spread of the virus.

“With the shockingly limited available testing and the inability to distance inmates, COVID-19 is going to continue to spread, not only among the inmate population, but also among the staff,” Gwin wrote.

By Cory Shaffer

Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS)

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