Michigan Department of Corrections Response to COVID-19
Jails across the state of Michigan saw a significant decrease in prisoner population due to early releases due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of inmates across Michigan’s County Jails decreased by more than half during this time; starting at a jail population of about 18,000 and now down to about 8,000 inmates. The Michigan Department of Corrections (Michigan’s prison system) saw significant decreases as well as both jails and prisons alike face significant challenges in keeping the prisons sanitized and safe from COVID-19. COVID-19 has infected more than 4,100 Michigan prisoners and 420 employees. 68 prisoners who were infected died along with three Michigan Department of Corrections employees. When an inmate tests positive for the virus, it can pose a significant challenge for that prison to contain the spread. Quarantining in a prison is also the same as solitary confinement, which is usually reserved for the most dangerous offenders and serves as a type of punishment for bad behavior in the prison system.
Current Situation Involving 35 Prisoners
The Michigan Department of Corrections recently confirmed through an official that it has kept 35 prisoners in solitary confinement for more than four months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these prisoners didn’t have COVID-19 and did not even commit any misconduct. They were put in solitary confinement in many cases as a form of protective custody. When a prisoner is put into protective custody it generally means that that specific prisoner is at risk of being assaulted by other inmates. Typically, the inmate is put in solitary confinement while he or she is then moved to another Michigan state prison for his or her safety. Prison regulations state that someone in protective custody should spend no longer than 30 days in solitary confinement unless extenuating circumstances exist. Currently, the Michigan Department of Corrections has all but stopped transfers between prisons in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Prisoner’s rights activists have stated that this is simply bad policy and that prisoners in these situations should be tested for COVID-19, and when it is shown that they are negative, they should then be transferred to a prison where they will be safe.
What Happens Next?
The Michigan Department of Corrections typically transfers around 2,500 prisoners per month between the prisons of the Michigan prison system. Current difficulties related to COVID-19 has led to only a few hundred prisoners being transferred since the beginning of the pandemic. Solitary confinement can have significant mental and physical health effects when a prisoner is confined for an extended period of time. Prisoner’s rights activists say that anything longer than 15 days in solitary is wrong and immoral. Incredibly, the Michigan Department of Corrections has stated that some of these inmates are still in segregation because they want to be and refuse to be tested for COVID-19. Typically, it is the prison that makes these kinds of decisions, not leaving them to the inmate but in this one circumstance apparently. This type of treatment could lead to potential legal action against the Michigan Department of Corrections for their treatment of inmates. Until someone forces the hand of the Michigan Department of Corrections to change their current policy, it looks as if some inmates will be stuck in solitary confinement until further notice.
Any Further Questions?
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.