Michigan prisons were designed to maximize populations with complete disregard for the physical safety and well-being of the human beings housed within. I am a current Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) prisoner that has been housed at twelve separate MDOC prisons. I want to say that prisoners cannot exercise one of the most effective means of preventing the virus, which is social distancing.
MDOC prisoners receive regular emails encouraging or mandating the national standard of maintaining at least six feet of distance from one another. Such distance is literally impossible because prisoners are forced to share cells designed for single occupancy. In many instances, upwards of 140 individuals are forced to live under one roof in an open dorm setting. Also, all MDOC facilities housing male and female prisoners have utterly inadequate ventilation systems. Nearly all of the incarcerated prisoners are unable to practice the recommended six feet of social distancing due to the permanently fixed positions of showers, sinks, toilets, urinals, telephones, kiosks, etc. All of these things are much closer than six feet.
The MDOC director continues to allow prison wardens to post various signs throughout each prison mandating social distancing of at least six feet. She is detached from reality because prisoners within her department are unable to follow these mandates. She encourages these postings in an attempt at absolving herself from impending civil litigation that may arise from these 8th amendment violations. Her administration and the Governor does nothing to protect the population within the MDOC. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has deemed prisoners as a population at high risk for the virus. In addition to hospitals and nursing homes, jails and prisons are tinderboxes and petri dishes for this virus.
There are serious issues plaguing the MDOC. Many men and women within the MDOC are well beyond the minimum sentence imposed by their respective sentencing judge. It costs more than $47,000 a year to house each prisoner. It is perplexing that individuals that should have been released are still in prisons. Releasing them would lessen the financial strain for the taxpayers of Michigan.
It is truly upon us as a nation and a civilized society to look into the rate at which we are incarcerating our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons. The internet affords almost anyone within our nation access to the data and statistics regarding incarceration in the U.S. It also provides resources on how to petition state representatives and congressmen for the prison reforms we so desperately need.
Since no vaccine presently exists for the virus I want to share information about a small group of men within one housing unit. This is just one of thirty five prisons in Michigan. This group of men are all considered at high risk for the virus. The CDC has stated that underlying health issues increase chances of fatalities. These are the men found in one housing unit. Although I am fortunate to be going back before the MDOC Parole Board at the beginning of July 2020, none of the individuals listed here are presently scheduled for parole interviews.
(Editorial note: The writer also provided names and prison identification numbers, but Prison Journalism Project removed them to protect the prisoners’ privacy)
NAME: AGE: MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS:
- D 31 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, congestive heart failure
- L 66 Peripheral Artery Disease
- W 57 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Afib, clotted arteries
- L 42 Asthma
- K 52 Asthma, Enlarged heart
- L 74 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
- L 52 Hirschsprung’s Disease
- S 75 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
- J 56 COPD, Asthma, Multiple Sclerosis, Cardiac Arrhythmia
- B 56 Hypertension
- W 63 Asthma, Parkinson’s Disease
- R 76 COPD, Afib, Angina
- S 61 COPD
- D 64 Asthma, Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardiomyopathy, Congestive Heart
- J 36 Asthma, Hypertension
- D 65 Hypertension
- C 56 Asthma, Hypertension
- A 58 Hypertension
- J 64 Hypertension, Diabetes
- B 38 Hypertension
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.