Athens County Courthouse
Athens County Courthouse [WOUB File Photo]

Athens Co. Judge Discusses Release of Jail Inmates who are More Susceptible to Coronavirus

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor on Thursday recommended that local governments release people at high risk for the novel coronavirus from jails.

“An assessment should be done to determine whether or not they can safely be released given the fact of their age and maybe other health conditions that they might have,” O’Connor said, adding that this measure would allow other inmates to stay safe and allow those at high risk to isolate themselves.

Athens County Court of Common Pleas Judge George McCarthy said local judges were evaluating this issue before O’Connor’s recommendation.

Over the past few weeks, he said, some Athens County inmates at Southeast Ohio Regional Jail who are at higher risk for COVID-19 have been temporarily released so they may receive healthcare. 

McCarthy said some people have signed recognizance bonds, meaning they agree to return to court on a scheduled date. He said others who are facing more serious charges may have a higher cash bond. 

“If they have a health concern, we want to make it easier for them to get healthcare,” he said.

McCarthy posted an update on the Court of Common Pleas website on Thursday, and said the court is remaining open, but trying to limit person-to-person contact.

He said the court is continuing many cases to avoid having people come to the courthouse, and has implemented online filing of legal documents. Jury trials have also been continued, and the Athens County Grand Jury has been suspended until further notice.

“We’re doing everything on our end in taking steps to insulate people, including our jail population,” he told WOUB.