Court Hawk
a face mask is placed on a gate representing prison bars

Inmate’s Coronavirus Lawsuit Thrown Out by High Court

Columbus—A lawsuit was thrown out by the Ohio Supreme Court last week when an HIV-positive inmate sought early release. He claimed he was worried about how the coronavirus was burning through the state’s prison system.

The case was dismissed by the court, granting the state’s motion, because the inmate failed to make his case.

Inadequate Prison Conditions Leading to Coronavirus Spread

Derek R. Lichtenwalter is an inmate at the Belmont Correctional Institution. He argued that it was difficult if not impossible to practice social distancing or proper hygiene while in prison.

He says that what Gov. Mike DeWine has been urging all Ohioans to do in response to the pandemic isn’t possible in prison conditions.

44-year-old Lichtenwalter has more than a year left to complete his two and a half year sentence. It was for failing to comply with the order or signal of a police officer, which is a third-degree felony. His conviction was the result of a high-speed pursuit when his pickup truck collided with a cruiser, which injured a patrol officer.

Lichtenwalter argues that being forced to remain in prison can amount to a death sentence if he or others came down with the virus.

200 Inmates Identified for Possible Early Release

More than 200 inmates have already been identified for a possible early release by Mr. DeWine. Half of those identified were approved for early parole and are already closing in on their release dates.

Lichtenwalter is not on any of those lists. This is because Attorney General Dave Yost has been able to successfully argue that Lichtenwalter doesn’t have the constitutional right to be granted an early release from prison.

At the Pickaway Correctional Institution south of Columbus, there have been three inmates who have died as a result of being infected with coronavirus. A correctional guard at Marion Correctional Institution has also passed away from the virus.

There have also been 159 positive cases among prison staff members and 272 inmates have also tested positive. There are another 331 inmates currently in isolation.

Other Inmates Also Being Denied Early Release

It isn’t just inmates like Lichtenwalter who are seeking an early release. Others, like Bill Cosby, are also being denied the chance from escaping coronavirus while in prison.

A statement from a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokesperson said that “Sex offenders are not eligible under the reprieve criteria,” in order to be considered for an early release.

The statement follows Cosby’s rep, Andrew Wyatt, showing concern that the 82-year-old comedian was more at risk of the virus because of his health and age.