- The Justice Collaborative identified jails and prisons as particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
- According to the Marshall Project, Michigan has had approximately 75 deaths and 9,763 total cases in its prisons as of Nov. 20.
- As of Nov. 5, there were 404 active inmate cases in Upper Peninsula prisons alone.
LANSING, Mich., Dec. 2, 2020 — Members of the Detroit Caucus urge Gov. Whitmer to meet community stakeholders regarding the handling of the coronavirus within MDOC facilities. The Detroit Caucus has been working with community stakeholders and advocates to develop recommendations to improve health and safety within MDOC facilities for inmates and staff.
“For the last several months, COVID-19 cases have been rising in our prisons, and we have to do more to reduce the exposure to staff and inmates in Michigan prisons,” said state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit). “We realize ‘most staff members are doing the best that they can. However, it is imperative that we reduce the population density of our prisons by granting compassionate release, early parole, and commutations for low-level offenders who do not present a safety risk.”
The recommendations for the governor are split into two major categories, immediate actions and more long-term goals. Immediate actions include reviewing any person who is past their earliest release date and more transparency from MDOC on their internal response to COVID-19 in prison.
“MDOC has already taken some great steps, but there is still more work that can be done to reduce the prison population,” said state Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods). “One of the most meaningful would be prioritizing the release of those who have served past their early release date. Beyond controlling the spread of the virus within our correctional facilities, we can also start putting people on a stronger path to re-entering society by allowing those eligible to return home sooner and utilize community programs to finish their rehabilitation.”
There are also long-term recommendations, including seeking reforms of the commutation process and focusing on those who are serving longer sentences.
“My office has been flooded by a number of complaints from inmates in MDOC and their families, and I take each of those alarming concerns to heart,” said state Rep. LaTanya Garrett (D-Highland Park). “Inmates have not been provided adequate social distancing, inmates who have tested positive are being transferred in with inmates who have tested negative, and those with underlying health issues are not receiving proper medical attention. We are requesting that the governor and director of MDOC act expeditiously to address the multiple issues facing our incarcerated citizens and making it clear that their lives matter, and I have confidence they will.”