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Some Ohio Judges Mandate Covid-19 Shots for Parolees

A decision by at least two Ohio judges to mandate a Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of parole has touched off some controversy.

In Columbus, Franklin County Common Pleas, Judge Richard Frye added the vaccination requirement to three of about 20 case sentences handed down the week ending June 29, 2021. He said none of the three defendants raised ethical or medical concerns when discussing the matter in court. Instead, Judge Frye blamed their unvaccinated status on procrastination.

In addition to providing “incentive” to overcome that procrastination, Judge Frye defended his orders as “a reasonable condition when we’re telling people to get employed and be out in the community.”

But Gary Daniels, a lobbyist with the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said a vaccination “doesn’t have any real relationship to community control,” using the term of art in state courts for probation.

"At a minimum," Daniels added, “it appears to be problematic.”               

By August 18, 2021, barely half of Ohioans had begun the process of getting vaccinated, according to a dashboard maintained by the state Department of Health. A percentage only slightly higher than when Judge Frye handed down his orders and insisted, “I just want them to be safe in the community.”

He can do it, too. State regulations give judges discretion to "impose any other conditions of release under a community control sanction that the court considers appropriate."

So, in Cincinnati, Hamilton County Common Pleas, Judge Christopher Wagner asked for Brandon Rutherford's vaccination status when the 21-year-old came up for sentencing on a drug. Conviction on August 5, 2021. Rutherford said he wasn’t planning to get inoculated. Judge Wagner gave him just 60 days after release from prison to community control to get the shots.

“For him to tell me that I have to get it in order for me to not violate my probation is crazy,” an irate Rutherford told a local TV station news reporter, “because I'm just trying to do what I can to get off this as quickly as possible, like finding a job and everything else, but that little thing can set me back."


Sources: Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio Department of Health, Reason, WCPO-TV

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