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Governor Issues Order to Combat Coronavirus Spread in Michigan’s Jails and Prisons

March 30, 2020 Criminal Law and Procedure

As the threat from the Coronavirus increasingly consumes the public attention, people are noticing the growing threat from the disease to people in jails and prisons.

Incarcerated inmates are especially vulnerable to the spread of the virus. It may easy for many people to self-isolate in their homes and apartments. Social distancing in prison may be impossible. Inmates live in confined quarters with restricted movements. Sheriff’s deputies, prison guards, and many other staff work closely around the inmate population, and of course go out into the world and back after a day of work.

Governor Whitmer issued an executive order to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan prisons and jails. The Order focuses on the Michigan Department of Corrections. The Order also makes recommendations to county jails. 

What Does the Executive Order Do?

The Order instructs all prisons to take serious efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus. First, social distancing protocols will be enacted as much as possible. Prisons will prevent groups of no more than 10 people. The MDOC will make personal hygiene products and education to prevent the spread available to inmates.

Juveniles will be removed from custody unless the juvenile is considered a substantial and immediate safety risk to others.

Any inmates with symptoms of COVID-19 will quarantined from the general population. Currently, many inmates have been moved from certain prisons and moved to others in order to quarantine.

No prisoner will be transferred from a county jail to a prison. All visits, with the exception of attorney visits, are restricted for the time being.

The Order is in effect through April 26.

What About County Jails?

The Order strongly encourages county jails to consider the release of the following inmates so long as they do not pose a public safety risk:

  • Older people, who have chronic conditions or are otherwise medically frail
  • People who are pregnant
  • People nearing their release date
  • Anyone incarcerated for a traffic violation
  • Persons in jail for failure to pay or failure to appear
  • Anyone with behavioral health problems who can safely be diverted for treatment

What is the Current Status of the Coronavirus in Michigan Prisons?

Fortunately, no inmate or prison employee has died. This is the current breakdown of COVID cases in the Michigan prisons.  

  • 12 Michigan Department of Corrections employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Prisoners in the following facilities:
  • 20 cases at Parnall Correctional Facility
  • 16 cases at the Macomb Correctional Facility
  • 7 cases at the Women’s Huron Valley
  • 7 cases at Lakeland Correctional Facility

The Coronavirus and the Legal World

The Coronavirus has changed everything. Michigan has been on a shutdown for everything but essential employees for about two weeks now. Originally this shutdown was to go until April 13. President Trump yesterday announced the guidelines for social distancing would extend from April 13 through April 30. This means the shutdown will likely continue until May.

In Washtenaw County, where your author practices, hearings are only being held for defendants who are in-custody. Those hearings are being done virtually through Zoom. Some in-custody appearances are necessary, such as for preliminary examinations. No jury trials are being held. No sane criminal defense attorney would hold a jury trial right now anyways. 

ArborYpsi Law cannot meet with clients in-person at the office due to Governor Whitmer’s closing of all non-essential businesses. We are still meeting with clients by phone or Skype. 

Contact us at 734.883.9584

Call Sam Bernstein at 734.883.9584 or e-mail at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com.

Sam Bernstein is an Ann Arbor Criminal Defense Attorney.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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