Originally published on 1/15/2020
Since the beginning of this pandemic Michigan’s grassroots organizations have been asking Governor Whitmer, and the appointed Director of the MDOC Heidi Washington, to handle this crisis with public health and human rights in mind. Michigan’s DOC is currently fighting a COVID infection rate of 60% amongst it’s population of 41,000 residents.
Grassroots organizations are working over-time and collaboratively to support the incarcerated and their families during this chaotic time. They’ve co-drafted this whitepaper report, “I Don’t Want To Die In Prison”, co-sponsored this helpful resource guide, hosted Twitter Storms #LetMIPeopleGO, and have asked those with personal experience to fill out this questionnaire.
Advocacy groups are calling for:
- Review of any person who is past their earliest release date (ERD) and release all people past their ERDs including all people serving on parolable life sentences who have 15 or more years served.
- Waiving requirements for programming that is required for parole.
- More transparency from the MDOC on their internal response to COVID-19 in prisons.
- Provide free phone calls for people in prison.
- Creation and implementation of a meaningful commutation process which includes an expansion of the parole board with expertise in and focus on long serving people.
Humanity for Prisoners president Matt Tjapkes says eliminating the $5.00 per visit medical co-pays for MDOC residents should be a top priority. In 2020, his organization had 18,610 requests for assistance. HFP provides personalized problem-solving services for incarcerated persons in order to alleviate suffering beyond the just administration of their sentences.
Michigan incarcerates 641 per 100,000: a rate higher than most countries in the world, almost matching the United States’ national average. Yet, their state prisons have a COVID-19 infection rate of 58%.
Michigan reduced the number of men incarcerated in its state prisons by 8% between 2009-2015, but counter-productively incarcerated 30% more women over the same period; now housing over 2100 female residents in a single facility built for 1100.
Call for Correspondents in Michigan
Prison Radio is looking for new correspondents in Michigan! If you have friends and relatives inside, please have them contact us to record a commentary! They can call (415) 648-4505 to reach our recording staff between 6-9pm EST.
It is this reaching across the walls, and airing of these crucial voices, that builds the type of solidarity that we will need for the fight ahead.
#LetMIPeopleGo – Decarcerate Now!
As the COVID-19 case numbers soar, the urgency of decarceration reaches unprecedented levels. Michigan’s Governor Whitmer should at minimum consider clemency for all over 55 with 20+ years served, those with pre-existing conditions and those within 12 months of their ERD.
As with prisons across the country, decarceration of MDOC overcrowded facilities is the only chance to slow the death toll and control the virus inside Michigan prisons.
Prison Radio will continue to liberate voices from the inside while keeping our supporters up to date. We appreciate your continued support.
When We Fight, We Win!
Prison Radio Staff