MUSKEGON, Mich. — Family members of a man currently locked up in prison are asking officials to consider early release after he tested positive for COVID-19.
The Michigan Department of Corrections says they have tested all inmates currently incarcerated in their facilities. They have so far positively identified 607 cases in the Muskegon facility alone.
MDOC says they have performed over 62,000 tests since the pandemic began.
"The guys who are in prison, they don't go through that by themselves. The family members go through it with them,” said Toleda Mann, whose son is incarcerated in Muskegon.
Leo Allen has been behind bars since 2016. His mother, Toleda Mann, and his girlfriend, Tangela Dooley, organized a protest in front of the prison Tuesday afternoon.
“No matter what they did to get in there. They're still human beings, they're not animals, they're not dogs. They still need what we need," Dooley told FOX 17.
Allen says he recently tested positive for COVID-19. His girlfriend got him on the phone while FOX 17 was at the protest Tuesday.
“You have a lot of people panicking, a lot of people screaming and emotionally upset,” Allen said over the phone.
“You’ve got people here who are very sick and they’re not getting the medical attention they’re supposed to be getting.”
Dooley says the prison should be shut down if they can't provide inmates with adequate medical attention. She and Mann are calling on officials to consider early release for some prisoners.
“A lot of people may think it's a blanket issue," Mann said.
"That 'hey, you did the crime, you just gotta do the time.' But it's more complex than that. First of all, everyone deserves in this country to be treated humanely. The guys who were sentenced, they weren’t sentenced to death row."
The family says they understand their loved one has a sentence to serve, they just do not want him to die behind bars because of a virus.
“It's not their loved one, but they matter to somebody. That's why, I said, I'm not just out here for the people I love but for everyone in there because they all matter,” Dooley said Tuesday.
FOX 17 contacted a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections and was directed to a FAQ page on the department's website that says, "the MDOC has no legal authority to release prisoners prior to their earliest release date because of Truth in Sentencing laws, which require those sentenced to prison to serve their entire minimum sentence before they can be paroled."