Do you have a loved one trapped in the prison or jail system during this pandemic?
If you do, then you know how scary this time has been for prisoners and how little they feel the world is paying attention to their plight.
The United States prison system has the largest population of incarcerated people in the world. In this country, we house about 2.3 million people in prisons and jails.
Most prisons are overcrowded, and prisoners live in less than ideal circumstances in normal times. They are on top of each other in cells and common areas.
The pandemic has turned this typically trying situation in a nightmare for prisoners.
Prison conditions are the perfect breeding grounds for the virulent COVID-19 to spread like wildfire. Not only are they on top of each other, but they also have minimal access to hygiene and sanitation products and must buy them from the commissary.
Containment measures, such as social distancing, are not practical in these crowded conditions. Prisoners are exposed to guards and other personnel coming in and out of the facility. They do not have the room to stay 6 feet away from other people.
In the middle of March, new cases ramped up and inmates were dying. The federal prison system decided to lock everyone in their cells at all times for 14 days.
This left prisoners without the ability to shower for days at a time. It forced them to eat and use the bathroom in the same room. In addition, they were restricted their access to news from the outside world.
In several Michigan prisons, prisoners were hiding symptoms to avoid having to go to solitary confinement. Several of them died for this reason.
Many inmates and their families understandably feel that they should not be trapped in prison to die there, as most of them did not receive a death sentence.
Early Prison Release Efforts
Attorney General Bill Barr began to issue directives in late March about the early release of some federal prisoners to enable them to quarantine more safely at home. As of right now, according to the Bureau of Prisons,
“There are 1534 federal inmates and 343 BOP staff who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 nationwide. Currently, 414 inmates and 132 staff have recovered. There have been 31 federal inmate deaths and 0 BOP staff member deaths attributed to COVID-19 disease.”
In the three federal facilities in Michigan, there are a total of 39 prisoners and 38 staff who have tested positive for COVID-19. Two inmates have died.
Although Barr’s directives show compassion for prisoners in federal prison systems, most prisoners are housed in state prisons – more than 1.3 million. New York and California have led the way in the early release of prisoners who are at higher risk. Those who pose little threat to society if they are released.
According to MLive, “As of Sunday, April 26, 1,031 people in the Michigan Department of Corrections system have tested positive for COVID-19, and another 32 have died.”
Early Release from Prison in Michigan
While Governor Gretchen Whitmer has put some measures in place to help curb the spread of the virus in prison, such as suspending transfers from jails to prisons and allowing “local officials flexibility in releasing vulnerable inmates ‘who do not pose a threat to public safety,'” it may be unclear to prisoners and their families just who fits this description.
Right now, the criminal justice system is inundated with lawsuits, habeas corpus petition,s and re-sentencing requests aimed at freeing prisoners based on dangers caused by the virus.
Prosecutors are vigorously fighting efforts to free prisoners en masse. However, according to Politico, they are sometimes acquiescing in releases when motions are brought to individual judges who handled the relevant criminal case.
Experienced Criminal Attorney in Michigan
Unfortunately, the jail and prison systems themselves are also swamped with requests.
However, that doesn’t mean you or a loved one should not get a voice. Do you believe the continued incarceration poses a threat to your or a loved one’s health because of COVID-19? Call my office today.
We will start working for you. Just because you may be in prison at this time does not mean you should have to fear for your life there.