Prisoners know first hand that the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) is not being transparent about the health conditions of Michigan prisoners and prisons, who are facing the effects of the COVID-19. A large number of prisoners have already died from this highly-contagious virus or have faced an onslaught of medical issues after suffering from its deadly effects. If COs were being transparent, the MDOC would address the ineffectiveness of the policies and procedures for Michigan prisons.
Low quality living conditions and overcrowding make it impossible for prisoners to be safe or be able to practice social distancing. When Michigan prisons were designed, they were built to hold one prisoner to a cell or room. Prisons that were designed to hold a capacity of 600 prisoners are now housing 1,200 due to double-bunking.
How can prisoners know these dangers to be a reality, while Michigan corrections officers do not act like it is a serious problem?
There are a lot of rumors and little to no verified news spreading throughout and embedding prisoners with fear. What we do know is that the South African coronavirus variant has made its way to the United States and that it spreads more rapidly and could kill more people. We also know that prisoners will be the last to receive the vaccine.
Carson City and other prisons in Michigan rely on a herd immunity mentality which means that if the virus spreads through everyone at once, those who have strong enough immune systems are left to fight it off and attain immunity. However, herd immunity is not working and it leaves prisoners under the constant threat of more mass deaths.
Prisoners who have served 25, 35, or 45 years with underlying illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease and other medical issues are especially vulnerable to the virus. Prisoners over the age of 50, that are serving life are known to have extremely low levels of recidivism. For many prisoners it would not even be an early release.
For example, I have been eligible for parole since 2009, I have an outstanding prison record, and I have been 19 years without any misconduct. Many people, like myself, who are serving life want a chance to make good decisions. Like many prisoners who are eligible for parole, I pose no risk to society, and could be safer from the pandemic at home instead of in a prison.
This pandemic has caused deaths everywhere. Deaths are rising in this country at an alarming rate and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is doing everything within her power to help Michigan citizens stay safe. She is not, however, prioritizing prisons. If Michigan believes in rehabilitation, the governor should take steps to downsize Michigan’s prison population to save lives and save taxpayers money.
Being transparent means saying what needs to be said. If there was ever a time for prison reform – it is now.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.