Gov. Whitmer signs order outlining jail protocols during coronavirus outbreak

Posted at 10:56 PM, Mar 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 08:18:47-04

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order that aims to protect vulnerable populations inside Michigan's jails and detention centers during the ongoing coronavirus pademic.

The EO details risk-reduction protocols that have been adopted by the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The order will also temporarily suspend transfers into and from MDOC faciliteis until resk-reduction protocols are 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 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 MDOC will monitor and evaluate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 to the prison population every seven days.

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 IDed by the order as potentially eligible for early release include inmates who are aging or have chronic conditions, pregnant women or people nearing their release date, or anyone in jail for failure to appeal, failure to pay or for a traffic violation.

As of Sunday evening, 59 prisoners across the state have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the MDOC.

In Michigan, there are currently 5,486 confirmed cases and 132 deaths from the disease, as of Sunday.