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Inmates and loved ones say governor is wrong about prisons following CDC guidance

Prison wall
Microsoft Images

Five Michigan inmates died this past weekend of COVID-19, bringing the total number of inmate deaths statewide to 94.  

42% of state prisoners have now been infected with the coronavirus, and inmates and their loved ones say that shows the state is not keeping them safe during the pandemic.

They are calling on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to use her executive authority to commute the sentences of hundreds of inmates who are nearing the end of their minimum sentences, who also pose a low risk to the safety of the public.

Last week, in response to the criticism, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said she shares the concerns about the situation. But she added that prisons are following CDC guidance on physical distancing, masks, and hygiene.

Many inmates and family members of inmates say that is not true. They say physical distancing is impossible with current population levels inside.

Donna Maske's son is incarcerated in the Central Michigan Correctional Facility, which experienced a recent massive outbreak of COVID-19. 

She says there's not enough soap or sanitizer, and many inmates are living in units less than six feet from one another. Maske says the prison had very few cases of COVID-19, until inmates who were positive were transferred from another prison, and placed in units throughout the facility.

"All they're doing is reinfecting, and infecting those that are not already infected," says Maske. "Because they're not separating anybody."

76% of inmates at the Central Michigan Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19. The number is even higher at Muskegon Correctional Facility, where 79% of inmates have received a positive COVID-19 test.

Maske says she and other women with incarcerated loved ones are planning a protest outside the Central Michigan Correctional Facility on Saturday to bring attention to the crisis.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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