Mike Shields, Researcher for Policy Matters Ohio spoke with America’s Work Force on April 9 to discuss the dangers of prison overcrowding during a pandemic.
Shields first spoke about Ohio’s prison overcrowding issue. Ohio’s prisons were built for 38,000 inmates. Currently, there are 49,000 inmates in Ohio prisons. Overcrowding has long been an issue, but the issue is now more dramatic because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a virus that spreads from contact or droplets from sneezing or coughing, being in an overcrowded area is not ideal. Shields explained that Governor DeWine is working to have judges reduce the prison population by allowing the release of inmates who are non-violent, or are incarcerated for violating their parole. He said that the goal right now is to release 1,000 inmates so that the prison population can be reduced down to 100 percent capacity, eliminating the overcrowding.
Shields also spoke about working from home and how it is helping reduce the spread of the virus, but also how it is impacting businesses. He explained that some people are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, but that some businesses have had to reduce their staff in order to stay in business. In order to keep the economy alive and strong, people need to spend money, but the issue is that people are holding onto money during these uncertain times because they may lose their jobs. Lastly, he talked about grocery store employees that are still required to work. He said that they are only allowed to take their paid time off if they are sick. This makes it more difficult for employees to distance themselves from people as they risk catching the virus.
Desiree Hoffman, International Representative for the United Auto Workers spoke about the union response to COVID-19. She talked about how UAW members at Ford and General Electric have shifted gears and are now manufacturing personal protective equipment. These workers are producing ventilators in re-opened auto plants, but are not making the same wages they were to make vehicles. She also provided some insight on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and how it is helping businesses and people out of work.
AWF host Ed “Flash” Ferenc spoke about grocery store workers who are dying because of high exposure to the COVID-19 virus at work.
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