I-Team: Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to release prisoners because of changes due to coronavirus

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(WJW) — The FOX 8 I TEAM has learned Cuyahoga County Court is taking extraordinary steps that could lead to hundreds of inmates getting out of jail due to the coronavirus.

Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan tells the I TEAM the court will hold a special session for hearings on Saturday aimed at reducing the number of inmates in the County Jail.

When we asked Judge Sheehan how many prisoners could be released? He responded, “Gosh. We’re hoping hundreds.”

Sheehan says many inmates are already in poor health, and it wouldn’t take much for the coronavirus to spread wildly behind bars.

So Cuyahoga County judges will hold hearings Saturday and most of next week to work out guilty pleas and take other steps to get prisoners out of jail.

Judge Sheehan says almost any kind of inmate could be considered. Almost.

He said, “You gotta remember, the goal of this is to protect the community and the safety of the inmates. If someone’s a serious violent person, well, we’re using our discretion to make sure the community’s safe also.”

To be clear, the county won’t just unlock the jail doors and say, ‘OK, you’re free to go.’ Inmates could plead guilty and get released. Or, get placed on house arrest. Or,  maybe even strike a plea deal and get sent away to prison to start serving time.

The judge added, “Gotta be proactive and ahead of the curve.”

He adds, the jail may need empty space if some inmates have to be quarantined because of the virus.

Some folks we met on the street have concerns. One woman said judges need to be very careful with this. She said, “Pick and choose who they’re letting back into the population. Low-level criminals versus more active, violent criminals.”

Meantime, we found Celena Glover at the jail. She says her mom is locked up, and she now hopes her mom gets out during the special hearings.

Glover said, “I’m excited to hear that. ‘Cause a lot of people in jail are waiting on a court date.”

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