As of May 9th, 2020, the Michigan Department of Corrections has logged more coronavirus deaths than any other state prison system and has more deaths from COVID-19 than the entire federal prison system, which houses more than 172,000 people nationwide, a population that’s nearly five times larger than MDOC’s population of roughly 38,000.

All studies point to the fact that the best way to manage the COVID-19 challenge in Michigan’s prison system is to release as many people as possible as quickly as possible. It can be done quickly, without compromising public safety, and in the best interest of public health, but it will require the system to consider different rules.

The Governor has taken steps to expedite parole reviews for those eligible for parole, resulting in an increase in paroles from 150 per week to 220. However, only 5% of the state’s prison population is eligible for parole due to many factors. The biggest obstacle to parole in Michigan is our Truth In Sentencing (TIS) law that requires minimum sentences be served, with no credit for good behavior or any progress the prisoner has made.

Michigan does not have the death penalty. However, without any action, many prisoners will receive a defacto death sentence. The time to act is now.

To save lives, it is imperative that the Governor act immediately to expand who is eligible for parole and/or suspend TIS, expand the use of her commutation powers, expand parole boards, and expedite the review of wrongful conviction cases in front of the conviction integrity unit.

Please call Governor Whitmer at 517-373-3400 or 517-335-7858 (Constituent Services) or use this Comment Form to share your comments.

Suggested Script to the Governor:
Hello, my name is ________ and I have a message for the governor. Michigan has no death penalty, yet vulnerable prisoners in the Michigan Department of Corrections are being sentenced to death due to the spread of COVID-19. To save lives, I urge the governor to expand who is eligible for parole, commute more sentences, and expedite the review of wrongful conviction cases.

Resources:
Michigan Speeds Parole Review But Few Prisoners Qualify
Letter regarding executive order on prisons from advocacy organizations
Michigan ranks highest in nation for prisoner deaths from coronavirus
A State-by-State Look at Coronavirus in Prisons