Michigan prisoners wait for classes needed to be released

Classes paused as COVID cases climb in prisons
Michigan prisoners wait for classes needed to be released
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 6:01 PM EST
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BLACKMAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WILX) - The latest surge in COVID-19 cases is causing some prisoners to have to wait longer than expected to be let out from behind bars.

Related: Ingham County Jail launches new educational, skills training program for inmates

The Michigan Department of Corrections is taking extra precautions as more prisoners and staff get sick.

“All you have to do is do your classes. He has seen people wait up to six months longer than their sentencing, which doesn’t make sense to me,” said Pansy Strickland.

Strickland’s son is scheduled to be released from Parnall Correctional Facility this fall after serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence, but he needs to finish a drug abuse class to be released. And since COVID cases are up, they aren’t being offered.

MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz said classes -- like for drug and alcohol abuse -- can’t be offered virtually.

“These really work best, the evidence shows, when you are in a group setting and you’re in a circle and being able to share and dialog,” said Gautz.

Strickland said it doesn’t make sense since prisoners are able to take classes that aren’t required to be released.

“There are arraignments with college courses, which are done by closed-circuit TV and there are correspondence courses they are allowing other inmates to take,” she said.

Gautz said those classes aren’t being offered at the moment because they are trying to limit the movement inside the prison.

“That’s why we do cohorted movements and the prisoners don’t go anywhere where there are other prisoners from other housing units,” said Gautz.

Gautz said some prisoners are able to be released if they are going back to a community where these classes are offered.

MDOC said it reviews its COVID precautions every day and makes adjustments as needed. The department already ordered KN95 masks for all prisoners and staff. Those will be handed out once they arrive.

MDOC reported 261 prisoners tested positive for COVID Tuesday, the second-highest outbreak in the state prison system.

Related: Michigan House not voting this week due to COVID-19

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