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Kim Kardashian West calls for the release of Ohio inmate housed at virus hotspot

Prison in the time of coronavirus
Prison in the time of coronavirus 07:35

In her ongoing fight for criminal justice reform, Kim Kardashian West is advocating for the release of an Ohio inmate who has maintained his innocence in the killing of three people in 1994. Kevin Keith is serving time at Marion Correctional Institution, one of the largest coronavirus hot spots in the country.

Kardashian West on Tuesday tweeted about Keith, writing that he spent 10 years on death row "for a crime he didn't commit, only to find himself under threat of death again, trapped in a prison that has become the leading hotspot for COVID-19. PLEASE HELP."

In 1994, Keith was convicted and sentenced to death in the fatal shooting of two women and a 4-year-old girl in the city of Bucyrus. Then-Governor Ted Strickland commuted his sentence in 2010 to life without parole, raising questions about the evidence brought at trial and the lack of suspects, The Associated Press reported.  

Last year, Kardashian West met Keith on a video visit and said she was impressed by his work behind bars: "I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Keith through a video visit & was so impressed w/ the amazing programs he created in prison to help others inside better themselves! So much evidence has been uncovered proving Kevin's innocence. I hope justice is served soon & he is released."

As of Tuesday, there were 3,762 inmates and 319 staffers who tested positive in the Ohio prison system. That's about 30% of all coronavirus cases in Ohio. Nine inmates and one staffer have died from the virus, according to the state's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. 

There have been 13,250 confirmed cases across Ohio, along with 538 deaths, according to the state's Department of Health.

The state's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said there was a rapid rise in cases because of an "aggressive" testing approach, which included testing of all staff and inmates at Marion, the Pickaway Correctional Institution and the Franklin Medical Center.

Activists have warned for months of potential outbreaks at America's correctional facilities, where social distancing is nearly impossible. Some states, like New York, California, New Jersey, have announced plans to release hundreds of inmates. 

Governor Mike DeWine last week approved the release of 105 inmates under the state's emergency overcrowding law and commuted six sentences through the state's parole board, his office said in a statement.

Justin Carissimo contributed to this report.

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