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Maryland court denies requests to release inmates, detainees

Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Justice Mary Ann Barbera

Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. (The Daily Record/File photo)

Maryland’s top court on Friday rejected requests from the state public defender’s office and civil rights groups to release low-level juvenile and adult inmates and detainees amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The public defender’s office said in its petition to the Court of Appeals last week that children as young as 10 had been placed in solitary confinement after being exposed to the virus. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and other groups called on the high court to “prioritize for release” prisoners at the highest risk for succumbing to the virus, including inmates over age 60 and those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes.

The high court did not address the merits of the petitions but said an administrative order would be issued shortly by Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera.

That forthcoming order will provide direction and guidance to lower court judges “in connection with important health concerns” affecting those committed or detained in facilities in Maryland during the COVID-19 virus pandemic, the court wrote.

Maryland on Monday reported close to 9,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,000 hospitalizations and 262 deaths.

Nationwide, the death toll from the coronavirus eclipsed Italy’s for the highest in the world, with the U.S. death toll standing at more than 23,000 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, confirmed infections rose above 1.9 million, with more than 118,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Daily Record reporter Steve Lash contributed to this report.

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