Some Ohio Judges Are Mandating Vaccinations as a Condition of Probation. That’s an Abuse of Power.
A Cincinnati judge has ordered a man to get a COVID-19 vaccination as condition of probation. Other judges in Ohio are apparently doing the same thing, even though getting vaccinated has nothing to do with preventing criminal behavior.
WCPO reports that when Brandon Rutherford was before Hamilton County Pleas Court Judge Christopher Wagner to be sentenced for a drug conviction, Wagner asked if he had been vaccinated. When the 21-year-old said he hadn’t been planning on getting the shots, Wagner ordered him to do so within two months of his probation release (known as “community control” in Ohio).
Rutherford complained to WCPO that “for him to tell me that I have to get it in order for me to not violate my probation is crazy, 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.”
If Rutherford refuses to get vaccinated, his probation could be extended—or he could even be forced into prison. That makes the threat bizarrely ironic, as our jails and prisons have been COVID-19 incubators and a dangerous place to send the unvaccinated.
Ohio’s probation regulations do give judges leeway to “impose any other conditions of release under a community control sanction that the court considers appropriate.” While the rules focus on forbidding probationers from abusing drugs while released, the construction of the law doesn’t confine the judge’s authority to drug use.
Wagner subsequently told The Cincinnati Enquirer that it’s the court’s responsibility to “rehabilitate” a defendant and
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