Coronavirus

Prisoner in Ohio Halfway House Complains About Lack of COVID-19 Preparations. He's Sent Back to Prison. Now Ohio Prisons are Exploding with COVID-19.

While his own prison is not yet facing a huge problem, Brandon Baxter had a prescient complaint for which he seems to be being punished.

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Brandon Baxter complained to a Cleveland newspaper that the halfway house where he lives was not prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. He was then shipped back to prison, just as the virus is starting to rip through the state's prison system.

The story begins in March, when Baxter told the Cleveland Plain Dealer how he and others at Oriana House were reacting to the outbreak. "We are all freaking out about this coronavirus situation," he said. "We are in here, eating shoulder-to-shoulder in a cafeteria, and then going out into the community."

Within days, federal marshals removed Baxter from the halfway house and deposited him in the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown. When The Plain Dealer's Rachel Dissell asked why Baxter had been put behind bars, an Oriana official told her (in Dissell's paraphrase) that it is a federal "rule violation for any federal prisoner to speak to a member of the public with out permission" and that "Oriana House staff…is obligated as part of its contract to notify the prisons of violations. Prison authorities have discretion over what action to take."

Baxter himself says in a phone interview yesterday that neither Oriana nor the marshals nor anyone at the Youngstown institution has told him exactly why he's back there. After the story appeared, the halfway house started stripping him of privileges, leading him to gripe anxiously that they might as well just send him to prison. (He would hope, he says, that an institution dedicated to reintegrating prisoners would see that as a sign he needed to talk to a psychological pro, not that he needed to be locked up.) And after Oriana officials accused him of providing pictures to Dissell, he disabled his phone ("let's just say I gave them a phone with no battery or SIM card") before handing it over to investigators. That too was a violation of the rules.

Baxter reiterates his criticisms of Oriana House's coronavirus policies, noting that residents were still being sent to work in close quarters in offsite factories even as family visits were being restricted for fear of spreading the virus. He also says the halfway house's policies about inmate internet access—and about when it would allow inmates to leave the premises in search of a job—were grossly inadequate for its alleged goal of reintegrating prisoners into society. He accuses Oriana of blocking him from taking a better-paying job at Amazon because Amazon doesn't make it as easy to keep constant track of workers while on the job.

Baxter's fears about COVID-19 in Ohio lockups proved prescient. As the Marion Star reports, "the state's prison system has recorded 2,426 positive results among inmates." That's 21 percent of Ohio's confirmed cases. The Daily Beast points out that the "Marion Correctional Institution is now the biggest single-source hotspot of coronavirus cases in the United States….More than 70 percent of inmates have tested positive for the novel coronavirus."

At one Ohio penal institution, the Elkton Federal Correctional Institute, at least 59 inmates and 46 staff have been infected. (As The Cinncinnati Enquirer notes, "the full extent of the outbreak is unknown because only a small percentage of inmates at FCI Elkton have been tested.") The situation there is so dire that a judge has given the prison two weeks to "evaluate each subclass member's eligibility for transfer out of Elkton through any means, including but not limited to compassionate release, parole or community supervision, transfer furlough, or nontransfer furlough."

Fortunately for Baxter, the facility he is stuck in does not seem to have been hard hit. (He is aware of just two confirmed staff cases.) Baxter isn't "seeing anything to sway me from believing" the official numbers; he hasn't been seeing or hearing a lot of coughing, for instance. His prison is not one of the ones in which the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has instituted mass testing for COVID-19.

Baxter is near the end of an almost 10-year sentence for his role in an FBI-provocateur-triggered plot to blow up a bridge. He is scheduled to be released in October.

NEXT: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Thinks Fighting Income Inequality Is a Higher Priority Than Getting People Back to Work

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  1. Is Oriana House one of those “non-profit” bad behavior treatment centers where the courts can sentence offenders to rehab and counseling (including being sentenced to pay the fees for the treatment) for drugs, alcohol, anger management, divorce counseling, traffic violations and paranoia that the courts and the “non-profit” court-mandated treatment industry are working a scam to bilk low-level offenders out of every nickel they can manage to scrape together?

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    2. Brandon Baxter doesn’t deserve our sympathies! Inside sources inform me personally that Brandon Baxter took it upon his evil self to violate laws meant to protect me, and you, and ALL of us, from ignorant abuse of un-prescribed dangerous medical implements of destruction known as cheap plastic “lung flutes”! BEWARE!!!

      In these days of deadly dangers, BEWARE!!!!

      To find precise details on what NOT to do, to avoid the flute police, please see http://www.churchofsqrls.com/DONT_DO_THIS/ … This has been a pubic service, courtesy of the Church of SQRLS!

  2. Maybe this will be the death knell for these large institutions, prisons, public schools, nursing homes… people are individuals, let’s let entrepeneurs find ways to provide individualized service.

    1. One bullet each?

  3. Really? Using the communist site CommonDreams as a news source?

    Directly from their website:

    “We believe that with a pandemic spiraling out of control, people desperately need information they can trust. And we believe that hard-hitting journalism is essential to hold the Trump administration accountable for their deadly incompetence.”

    “We share our readers’ progressive values of social justice, human rights, equality and peace. Common Dreams is committed to not only being your trusted news source, but to encouraging critical thinking and civic action on a diverse range of social, economic, and civil rights issues affecting individuals and their communities.”

    “Common Dreams’ Progressive NewsWire is a nonprofit news service which publishes the latest news releases from the progressive community.”

    1. Let’s take a look at the names on their Testimonials page –
      Naomi Klein, Graham Nash, Ralph Nader, Bill Moyers, Bianca Jagger, Madea Benjamin, Nina Turner, John Nichols, RoseAnn DeMoro, Nomiki Konst, Susan Sarandon, Michael Winship

      Give if you can: these folks do more to keep liberty and freedom of speech alive than just about anyone.
      -Michael Winship
      Journalist – Bill Moyers & Company

      Uh…yeah.

      1. Ralph Nader? The man who single handedly saved modern civilization from the Chevrolet Corvair?

  4. “Baxter is near the end of an almost 10-year sentence for his role in an FBI-provocateur-triggered plot to blow up a bridge. He is scheduled to be released in October.”

    Only paragraph that mattered. I used to drive over that bridge. Fucker can rot in hell. Oh and also he’s one of the prog left assholes in the Occupy shithole. A communist faggot.

    https://www.cleveland.com/metro/2012/05/bridge_bomb_plot_brandon_baxte.html

    1. I recall this incident. The FBI coerced these two kinda slow kids to accept their tutelage and go along with their (the FBI’s) plan to blow up the route 82 bridge over the Cuyahoga river.
      The FBI came up with the plan, recruited the two kinda slow kids, coerced them into joining the plan, provided them with fake explosives, and then arrested them on terrorism charges.
      I don’t drive over the bridge too often, but I do portage my kayak around the dam just beneath it.

  5. You glossed over the real reason he was sent back. They accused him of taking pictures from inside the prison and of the other inmates. They tried to search his phone. But rather than give them what would prove him innocent, he destroyed the SIM card. Draw your own conclusions of what else might have been on his phone.

    1. Not allowed to have a phone while incarcerated.

  6. Who knew that crime might have a downside?

  7. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.
    I have no sympathy for violent offenders. I have no problem with non- violent offenders getting house arrest with monitoring bracelet.

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  10. That’s kinda funny, I was looking through my copy of the Constitution. . (most people should read it once or twice)

    I’ll be damned if I can find where you have a constitutional right to be infection free?

    1. Especially, if your in the slammer!

  11. A couple of good lessons to be learned from this article: 1) Don’t go to prison in the first place. 2) Don’t rely on the government to protect you…rely on yourself. 3) Follow the rules or suffer the consequences.

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