While the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken over the news, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been active to help protect inmates and those that may be incarcerated during this period. On Wednesday, the ACLU wrote to the Justice Department and the Bureau of prisons to request the release of the most vulnerable inmates — those who are elderly or with chronic health conditions — and to slow prison admissions and reduce overcrowded conditions. To see how this initiative will affect the state of Michigan, we obtained commentary from three of the top criminal lawyers in our state.
Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has amassed a team that is known as the top criminal defense firm in Michigan. When asked about the ACLU initiative, Grabel said, “Prosecutors and defense lawyers are at odds of this issue. The consensus of the defense counsel is that the vulnerable need to be released from the Michigan Department of Corrections. Not all prosecutors share that sentiment and argue that the protection of the community is still at their forefront. This is becoming a time of great controversy in the legal profession.”
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 across the state of Michigan and expressed concern for inmates. Amadeo said, “I’m concerned about the elderly. I’m concerned about those with mental health issues that are not being treated properly. COVID-19 has changed the way we look at things. If the Michigan Department of Corrections does not want overcrowding and sickness to spread, they need to follow the mandate from the ACLU. Prison time should not be the top priority of prosecutors right now.”
Lane Zabawa has quickly built a reputation as a top criminal defense counsel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zabawa, who also does a lot of estate planning, provided commentary when he said, “In both criminal defense and estate planning, there is always an emotional connection to the elderly. We are faced with a situation where the elderly are very vulnerable to overcrowding and sickness in our prison system. We need to find alternatives to incarceration now more than ever before.”
This article by Todd Ruger on www.rollcall.com went into great detail on this issue and explained how widespread this concern is.