A new analysis from the Ohio Immigrant Alliance shows that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Morrow County Correctional Facility failed to follow its own Infectious Disease Control Program (IDCP), as well as the National Detention Standards (NDS) required in its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)Because of this, the Morrow County Correctional Facility is now the first county jail in Ohio, and the first ICE detention center in the United States, to be 100% COVID-positive.

Today, June 8, Ohio Immigrant Alliance (OHIA) will present a petition to the Morrow County Commissioners and other elected officials, demanding that the jail be shut down because of these egregious problems. The petition, signed by 374 individuals is available here.

According to the new report and evidence: “None of the inmates and detainees at Morrow County have been seen by a doctor in the facility, despite their COVID diagnoses. Nursing staff are not present at the jail overnight or on the weekends, and even when they are there, they often decline to provide health care, including Tylenol. Jail staff have repeatedly refused to call an ambulance for detainees in serious distress. What’s more, there are no interpreters available to translate detainee medical conversations, calling into question how jail staff are even making such life-or-death decisions in the first place.”

Several of these problems were first documented in February 2020 by Freedom For Immigrants in a formal complaint sent to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has gone unanswered.

Laura Chambers-Kersh, MD, FAAFP said: “Multiple well-conducted investigations and legitimate reports have shown that the conditions in the Morrow County Correctional Facility are inhumane and unequivocally, recklessly endanger the health and lives of detainees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2019 National Detention Standards clearly guarantee detainees medical care, including timely responses to medical complaints, as well as staff or professional language services. The level to which this is NOT happening is ludicrous.

“Morrow County is not complying with multiple of these standards that have serious health implications: clean clothing/linens, personal hygiene products, available functional toilets/wash basins/showers, hot meals with proper nutritional content. As a physician, I am shocked and appalled at the way detainees have been treated, and the utter disregard for their safety and lives. Because the Morrow County Facility has been unable to comply with these standards, and unable to provide for detainees even the most basic measures to maintain their health and well-being, the only responsible course of action is to terminate their agreement with ICE.”

Added Joan Lederer, MD: “The evidence contained in this new report indicates an immediate need to investigate, by an impartial body, the situation at the Morrow County Jail and all jails in Ohio. It is absolutely wrong for prisoners to be intensely exposed to this deadly virus. Prisoners who have committed no crimes, or crimes that in no way threaten others, should be released to a safe quarantine situation. By not releasing these prisoners, the whole community and ultimately the whole state is at risk for more COVID-19, as workers come and go into the jail and are also exposed. This is a public health crisis and a moral and ethical crisis."

“There is no medically safe way to detain people during a pandemic, and the reports from Morrow County Jail suggest practices there are particularly unsafe and have led to high a serious COVID-19 outbreak,” said Jessica Merlin MD PhD, infectious diseases physician and Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh.

In addition to calling for closure of the Morrow County Correctional Facility, the Ohio Immigrant Alliance is raising money to help immigrants released from detention isolate in hotel rooms, and to fund commissary needs for those who remain detained. Donate to those efforts here and here