Michigan Department of Corrections taking steps to curb COVID-19

 Michigan Department of Corrections is trying to contain COVID-19 outbreak.
Michigan Department of Corrections is trying to contain COVID-19 outbreak. (WILX)
Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 5:23 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

There were at least 380 cases of COVID-19 between inmates and corrections officers in Michigan's prison system Wednesday.

Two employees have also died.

Most of Michigan's prisons don't have any cases of COVID-19 among the inmate population.

However, Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson County has 119 prisoners who tested positive for coronavirus, three additional tests were pending.

"It's been very, very stressful," said Cindy Merling.

Merling's son is serving time at Parnall, which has the most cases of coronavirus in the Michigan prison system.

She's worried her son could be the next case.

"This is working overtime mentally, not only on the inmates, but I'm sure for every family that has some loved one in there," said Merling.

The MDOC said there are 10 facilities with at least one case of coronavirus among inmates.

Department spokesman Chris Gautz said the prisons are doing what they can to keep prisoners healthy.

"We've been practicing social distancing to the extent we can in a prison. Really anything outside of your immediate living area. If you're in a cell, obviously your bunkmate is going to be within 6 feet of you," said Gautz.

He added inmates who test positive for COVID-19 at Parnall are taken across the street to the Cotton Correctional Facility where they are quarantined.

But in order to do that, inmates need to help.

"We have to know if they're sick so we can treat them because they're putting themselves at risk, they're putting their fellow prisoners at risk, and they are absolutely putting our staff at risk," Gautz said.

In March,

county jails are releasing inmates early to help control the spread of coronavirus on the inside.

Gautz said of the state's 38,000 prisoners, only about 5,000 could be eligible for parole now because of state laws.

"As you widdle that down you do get some potential cases for parole but then again these are small numbers,' said Gautz.

"I understand that under normal circumstances, but this is a pandemic and they are saying it is still going to spike," Merling said.

Her son is expected to be released in June.

Gautz said Michigan State Industries is making PPE for the prison system. Every staffer and prisoner will be issued masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 WILX. All rights reserved.