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Find better ways to protect inmates

Columbiana County has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. As this was written there were 135 cases in the county. Ten people have died of the disease. Sixty of those positive case patients — including five of the deaths –were at the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution. Yes, that obviously is a staggering percentage when compared to total county cases.

That facility has become a hotspot for virus attention from citizens, elected officials and the media. Protests have been evenheld outside of the complex by some who feel safe conditions are not being maintained.

At the local, state and federal levels, extraordinary precautions have been taken to keep jail and prison inmates safe. That is for their own sake, of course, and to curb the spread of COVID-19. A fine example would be the Columbiana County Jail. Not a single inmate or staff member there has tested positive for the virus. A big reason for that was an early decision made to decrease inmate population by judges and law enforcement as detailed in page one story published Monday. It has worked.

But clearly, at the Elkton experience indicates, at least some institutions need to find ways to do better.

This is no criticism of those with the difficult job of administering correctional facilities. No one saw COVID-19 coming. Coping with it has been a catch-as-catch-can — or, perhaps just the opposite — matter.

Still, there will be another epidemic. Corrections officials at all levels need to be certain they are ready for it, for the good of inmates as well as society as a whole.

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