Michigan Jails During Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an overhaul of our daily activities, and how many things are viewed. The normal routines for the operation of the Michigan prison system and county jails have seen monumental change. In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reserve jail and prison for those who commit violent crimes, a huge number of inmates have been released. In mid-March, there were nearly 18,000 people in the overall jail population statewide. In about six weeks, that number was reduced by approximately 10,000 people in which about 8,000 remained. Wayne County reduced its jail population by 40%, Ingham County by 30%, and Genesee by about 25%. While these numbers are significant, the most glaring statistic that has emerged during this period is the significant decrease in new criminal case filings, and that the State of Michigan has generally not seen those released re-offend in any way to end up back in jail. This decrease in crime even while so many have been released from jail has strengthened the calling for jail and prison reforms from various groups. Local groups such as the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration have pushed for reform, while national groups such as the Vera Institute of Justice have helped lead the way nationally with their research and statistical analysis.