Mt. Gilead, OH – Today at 6pm, an infectious disease expert and an advocate for Ohio immigrant families will address the COVID-19 crisis before the Morrow County Health District during their monthly board meeting. Members of the public and media are invited to attend the meeting via Zoom. See this Facebook Event for information.
The Morrow County Jail, which houses county inmates as well as civil Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees from around Ohio, has become the first 100% COVID-positive ICE facility in the nation. Sadly one man, Oscar Lopez Acosta, has already died after contracting the virus there.
Last week, an additional eleven men were released from ICE custody in Morrow due to an ACLU of Ohio lawsuit.
Through inadequate testing, inadequate observation, and inadequate isolation strategies, Morrow allowed its infection numbers to soar exponentially, and now every detainee in the large and small dormitories has been infected. This reckless, out-of-control spread of infection is constitutionally unacceptable,” wrote U.S. District Judge Sarah D. Morrison in her May 14 order.
Read “highlights” from the Judge’s order here.
The Morrow County Jail’s failure to prepare and follow proper protocol in the COVID-19 pandemic is well-documented, not only in Judge Morrison’s order but in several news articles (see American Prospect, The Progressive, Columbus Free Press, and Mount Vernon News). A Freedom For Immigrants complaint filed with the Department of Homeland Security, and ODRC jail inspection reports, foreshadow how the disaster came about, with consistent violations of spacing and cleanliness standards, among other problems.
This failure to prepare for and manage the COVID crisis led to the death of Oscar Lopez Acosta, a father from Dayton, who contracted the virus at the Morrow County Jail. Released after the first cases were confirmed, Oscar told his wife Lourdes Mejia Flores: “I’m dying.” Days later, he did. Lourdes described Oscar to Mother Jones: “He was a very responsible person. He was very caring. He was always attentive.” Now, after spending eighteen months in ICE detention, this loving father and husband is dead.
Tonight, Tramonte will point out:
The Morrow County Jail can end its ICE contract if it wants to. This is about money, plain and simple, since detaining immigrants is a booming business for Morrow County. But human lives must be worth more than a federal contract. What they do in this jail matters for people all across Ohio who have loved ones locked up there. The place is too infected to be ‘fixed.’ It’s time to shut this jail down.”
Ohio Immigrant Alliance (OHIA) is circulating a petition to shut down the Morrow County Jail. Sign and share it here: https://bit.ly/ShutDownMorrowICE. OHIA is also raising money to help immigrants released from detention isolate for 14 days, by paying for hotel rooms. Donate to that fund here: https://bit.ly/QuarantineICE.
Follow the Ohio Immigrant Alliance on Twitter @tramontela