In these are trying and uncertain times, we at Safe & Just Michigan want you to know that we are working to limit the impact of COVID-19 on people in Michigan’s jails and prisons, to keep the public up-to-date on what is being done, and to support advocacy for diversion and decarceration both during the pandemic and beyond it.
First, we are working to ensure that decisionmakers are aware of the risks that a pandemic poses to people in jails and prisons and of best practices in reducing these risks. To that end, we have signed on to letters from partner organizations with recommendations that were sent to the Michigan Department of Corrections, all 83 county sheriffs (who oversee Michigan’s jails), as well as the Governor’s policy and legal staff, the National Governor’s Association, the National Sheriff’s Association, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Second, we want to provide accurate information about (1) the advocacy work that is being done on these issues, (2) the steps system-actors in Michigan are taking in response, and (3) on the status of COVID-19 cases detected in Michigan’s jails and prisons. Without accurate information on these subjects, it can be hard to assess whether the advocacy effort has been adequate or effective, or whether the situation in Michigan’s jails and prisons is stable.
Third, we are working to support advocacy for diversion and decarceration both during the pandemic and beyond it. Clearly, this is an opportunity to raise awareness of (1) the risks that current incarceration rates and conditions of confinement can pose during a public health crisis, and (2) the fact that many incarcerated people are unlikely to reoffend if released. However, while the pandemic may make the need for decarceration and diversion more obvious and immediate, we do not want to lose sight of the fact that diversion and decarceration are good policies that are independently justified by the social science research and should happen regardless of whether there is a pandemic.
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We have gathered information and resources on these topics below. Please let us know if this resource list is helpful, and if there is additional information you would find helpful for us to compile.
~John S. Cooper
Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Guidance
MDOC Q & A
Joint SJM, ACLU, AFSC-MI Letter
REFORM Alliance S.A.F.E.R. Plan
L.E.A.P Webinar with Sheriff James Manfre
VERA Institute Guidance
Data for Progress
50 States Clemency Rules from NYU
World Health Organization Guidelines
Call Your Congressperson
Alliance for Safety and Justice
Brennan Center for Justice