With the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), criminal justice advocates are calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to release as many elderly, disabled, and medically frail inmates from Illinois prisons as possible before they may be affected by COVID-19. While the governor has been non-responsive to those activists at this point, there is cause for concern. To see how this initiative may change the state of Michigan, we spoke to several of the top criminal lawyers in our state.
Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, which is known as the top criminal defense team in the state of Michigan. Grabel provided commentary when he stated, “By the end of 2019 there were nearly 7,800 state prisoners in Illinois making up close to 20% of the state prison population. This is a large number of inmates that have special needs. In many ways, this becomes a socioeconomic argument for why there should be less incarceration during this time of crisis. With Illinois and Michigan having similar views on criminal justice reform, there could be s trickle-down effect on the Michigan Department of Corrections.”
William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as one of the top trial lawyers in Michigan and was quoted as saying, “Numbers don’t lie but are often hard to come by. The Illinois Department of Corrections doesn’t keep a tab on how many disabled, medically frail inmates it holds, but activists have said it could be hundreds in need. Illinois is a state with more resources than Michigan, which causes a tremendous amount of concern for inmates in need, When negotiating with elderly defendants, we have to look at the cost to house these inmates and balance that against the threat to society. This is not the time to press for incarceration. Teamwork is required to achieve the needs of justice for both victims and the incarcerated.”
Joe Brugnoli is a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates and known as one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Kent County, Michigan. When asked about the advocacy in Illinois and how that could affect Michigan, Brugnoli stated, “The Illinois issue is just the beginning. If swift action is not taken, there could be a great risk of civil litigation for those that are not treated properly. This is not simply an issue of morality; it also becomes an issue of economics. The Michigan Department of Corrections needs to view what is happening in other states when Governor Whitmer searches for solutions.”
The request made to Gov. Pritzker does not come without other prison systems taking measures to ensure the safety of all. Iran has temporarily released about 70,000 prisoners to stop the spread of the coronavirus in jails. In Italy, the country with the most confirmed new cases of the coronavirus in the world, riots have engulfed several prisons as the country suspended visitation rights for inmates. Solutions to these issues need to come quickly.