Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-29 on March 29, which protects vulnerable populations in Michigan’s county jails, local lockups and juvenile detention centers during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The executive order details risk-reduction protocols that have been adopted and implemented by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) and that county jails and local lockups are strongly encouraged to adopt.
In addition, to combat the spread of COVID-19, the order also temporarily suspends transfers into and from MDOC facilities until risk-reduction protocols are adequately in place, suspends provisions of the Jail Overcrowding Emergency Act to allow local officials more flexibility in releasing vulnerable populations who do not pose a threat to public safety and orders the State Budget Office to immediately seek a legislative transfer so that jails may be reimbursed for lodging prisoners who would have been transferred to MDOC if not for that suspension of transfers. The order also makes strong recommendations for juvenile detention centers across the state to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 in those facilities.
“The health and safety of all Michiganders remains our top priority during this public health crisis and that includes those incarcerated in our jails and juvenile detention centers,” Whitmer said. “It is challenging for inmates and employees to practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, and this executive order will put commonsense protocols into place to protect our jail and juvenile detention center populations.”
The Michigan Department of Corrections will monitor and evaluate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 to the prison population every seven days and can lift the temporary suspension of transfers when sufficient risk-reduction protocols are in place.
Risk-reduction protocols spelled out in the executive order include:
- Screening everyone who enters or leaves a facility, including staff, offenders and vendors.
- Restricting all visits, except for attorney-related visits.
- Limiting off-site appointments except for urgent or emergency medical treatment.
- Developing and implementing a protocol for incarcerated persons with COVID-19 symptoms.
- Providing appropriate personal protection equipment to all staff as recommended by the CDC to the fullest extent possible.
- Instituting stringent cleaning of all areas and surfaces on a regular and ongoing basis.
- Ensuring access to adequate personal-hygiene supplies.
- Practicing social distancing in all programs and classrooms.
- Minimizing crowding.
Those identified by the order as potentially eligible for early release from jails or local lockups include inmates who are aging or those with chronic conditions, pregnant women or people nearing their release date and anyone incarcerated for a traffic violation and failure to appear or failure to pay.