EXPOSED!! RACIST FRAME-UP OF DAVID SHELTON BY OAKLAND COUNTY IN 1993 RAPE CASE

David Shelton (center) with son David Stinson (l) and daughter (r) Mariah Shelton

1994 MSP forensic lab report shows “[no] Negroid hairs . . . that could have originated from David Shelton;” complete report withheld from defense

Rape victim said attacker “could have been a white man,” did not identify him in live line-up that included only Black men

Prosecutor told jury they had no “scientific evidence” related to case

Shelton in letter to State AG: “My skin seems to be my only sin.”

By Diane Bukowski, VOD Editor, and Ricardo Ferrell, Field Editor

DETROIT –Where is the justice in Oakland County?  David Shelton, serving 40-60 years for rape since 1994, is hoping that Michigan State Attorney General Dana Nessel, with the Western Michigan University/Cooley Law Innocence Clinic, will be able to win justice for him using over $1 million in federal grants meant to re-examine forensic evidence.

In 1994, David Shelton, who is Black, was sent to Jackson State Prison to serve lengthy jail terms after being convicted in separate cases of raping two white women who lived in the apartment complex where he stayed with his girlfriend. Oddly, the cases were heard in one trial with two juries in front of the late Oakland County Judge Francis X. O’Brien.

Shelton was convicted by an all-white jury in the first case of three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and sentenced to 40-60 years in prison, and of rape and assault in the second case, for which he was sentenced to 1 to 4 years and 2 years. The second offense allegedly took place two weeks after the first, both in February, 1993.

But in 2017, Shelton obtained Michigan State Police forensic reports, withheld from the defense in 1994. One said that a microscopic examination of hairs found in the bed of the first victim, and on a mask allegedly worn by the assailant, “did not detect any Negroid hairs that could have originated from David Shelton.”

Police had reported the victim originally said that her rapist “could have been a white man” she met earlier in the day at the apartment complex pool. She was not able to identify her rapist in a live line-up, which included only Black men, but did so in court.

“I have been trying for almost three decades to get people to see that I was framed for this crime,” Shelton told VOD reporter Ricardo Ferrell. “The police involved knew I didn’t do it. The prosecutor definitely knew I was innocent, but that didn’t matter. In their eyes, I was an expendable Black man, who they could use to close a case. I hope and pray that the wheels of justice finally begin to roll and that the truth comes out and I’m exonerated and set free.”

Shelton is now 54. His only son David Stinson was just four years old when his father was convicted, but for the past seven years has been fighting to free him.

“Racism, politics and corruption, those are the reasons he got sent to prison and why he’s still in prison,” Stinson told VOD. “Oakland County is a powerful county and that’s likely the reason no one will give the relief to him that he deserves. This justice system is supposed to be fair to all defendants regardless of their skin color. My father was singled out, arrested, investigated, and convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, and has spent the last 27 years in prison. Waking up each day knowing that he is innocent is really hard for him.”

According to trial transcripts, the Assistant Prosecutor told the jury in his opening statement on the first day of Shelton’s trial July 11, 1994, “So we don’t have any scientific evidence and you’re not going to hear anything about scientific evidence — or DNA testing, or anything like that.”

The reports, initiated by the Michigan State Police Forensic Lab on Feb. 2, 1993, were not completed until final results were obtained Sept. 16, 1993. The prosecution did not turn over the full report with the final results, according to a letter from Shelton’s first attorney Jerome Fenton dated Sept. 30, 1993, sent to his trial attorney Ben Gonek.

Judge O’Brien and the all-white jury never saw or heard testimony about the following report, dated 9-16-93, which should have raised serious doubts about Shelton’s guilt.
______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________
The forensic reports also state that no fingerprints were found on a mask prosecutors alleged at trial was worn by the rapist despite the prosecution’s allegations that Shelton’s fingerprint was found.

Royal Oak Twp. Sgt. Cecil Dawson

If true, that would show the Oakland County Prosecutors violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brady v. Maryland (373 US 83 – 1963), which says ALL exculpatory evidence (favorable to the defendant) from prosecutors or police must be turned over to the defense.

In a pro se application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, Shelton says his trial attorney was guilty of ineffective assistance of counsel on several grounds. Gonek agreed  to stipulate to the partial report at trial, knowing it was not complete, without having the MSP forensic lab technician testify to its contents, among other alleged misdeeds.

Shelton was arrested by two Royal Oak Township police officers, Cecil Dawson and Christine Bursey, the same two corrupt cops who would go to prison for ten and 15 years for their roles in selling drugs and protecting drug houses in Royal Oak Township, in conspiracy with Mexican cartels. (See article below, with written version attached in PDF at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/SUPPLIER-TURNED-INFORMANT-BOOSTS-CASE-4-METRO-DETROIT-COPS-GET-PRISON-FOR-DRUG-ROLES.pdf.

RELATED EXCERPT: “Rodriguez [informant] certainly changed the lives of four metro Detroit officers. Former Royal Oak Township Deputy Chief Cecil Dawson, 49, of Southfield was sentenced Dec. 8 to 10 years in prison; former Highland Park officer Albert Bursey, 47, was sentenced to the same term Dec. 17. Erwin Heard, a former Highland Park officer, was sentenced in May to 15 months in federal prison. Albert Bursey’s wife, Christine Bursey, a former Royal Oak Township police officer, stood trial, was convicted and was sentenced Dec. 17 to 15 years and eight months in prison.”

But evidence of Dawson’s corruption was known well before Shelton’s conviction.

Dawson was cited by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Solomon v. Royal Oak Township (656 F. Supp. 1254-1986) for running his own security agency on the side while he was the township’s Chief of Police, and getting CCW charges against a security employee dropped.

Judge Diggs Taylor noted that Dawson was one of several Royal Oak Township police employees who likely conspired to frame the plaintiff, Odis Solomon on rape charges, which led to his discharge.

Solomon served as Chief of Police under a 1978 order for superintending control over the Royal Oak Township Police Department imposed by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Hilda Gage because of rampant corruption in the department.

The Judge upheld Solomon’s allegation that he was fired as a whistleblower, and restored his job as Chief of Police with back pay. (See ruling below story.)

The record of the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office in charging sex crimes with likely insufficient evidence, continuing past Shelton’s conviction, was examined in a Detroit Free Press article, “Oakland Fumbles Sex Charges,” on April 27, 2008.

The Free Press found that Oakland County had won only 50 percent of cases involving sex charges between 2005 and 2008, compared to a conviction rate of 80 percent in Wayne County. Oakland County’s acquittal rate was 35 percent.

“Experts say a 35 percent acquittal rate is a sign prosecutors are bringing cases that don’t hold up under a jury’s scrutiny,” the Free Press said. “‘That’s high and that should give them concern,’ said Abbe Smith, the former deputy director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard University. ‘The charging decision is a critical decision. You should not prosecute every case.” (See text version of complete article below story.)

VOD spoke with Mariah Shelton (shown in photo at top), who was only two years old when her father was imprisoned.

She said, “It took me quite a while to understand that my father wasn’t going to be there for my first day of school, my prom and my graduating high school, and first day of college. I know in my heart of hearts my father is innocent. I just hope the scales of justice will balance out and that the victim steps up and tell the truth, that it wasn’t my father who assaulted her, because the evidence clearly shows it wasn’t him.”

Leslee Moore, who is Shelton’s fiancé, has stood by his side from the beginning, as a dedicated and supportive life partner.

“There’s no way my David raped that woman,” she said. “ I know him better than anyone. Believe me, if he had done this, I would not have been with him for over 13 years,” says Moore.

Shelton’s girl friend at the time of his arrest, Jacqueline White, was not called to testify at his trial, although she had testified in his favor at his preliminary exam. She denied police  reports that a Halloween mask fished out of the apartment complex’s trash was involved in the rapes. She said she threw it out because it frightened her child. The police and prosecution produced several masks of different types before settling on the one found in the trash.

The family of David Shelton has told VOD that they are extremely concerned about him because of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, which has hit the Michigan prisons hard. Shelton is being held at the Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula.

The facility is one of the temporary prisons that were constructed in the mid to late eighties intended to temporarily house inmates due to overcrowding issues. Kinross is a pole barn setting where approximately 1,280 inmates are confined in close quarters making the spread of COVID-19 inevitable.

Shelton submitted his case to the U-M Law School Innocence Clinic in 2012 , but was referred to the Cooley Law School Innocence Clinic instead, since it dealt with DNA evidence.

See text of complete article above at: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Clock-ticks-on-inmates-chance-to-clear-names-Detroit-Free-Press.pdf

Shelton said his hopes rose in 2004 when he became involved, along with 140 other prisoners and a Lansing-based Innocence Project, in a successful fight to permanently extend a 2001 state statute that required law enforcement agencies to preserve evidence from cases decided prior to 2001, as long as the defendant is behind bars.  Prior to the statute, there was no requirement governing evidence preservation among Michigan’s law enforcement departments, meaning material that could be tested for DNA was lost or destroyed in numerous cases.

Exoneree Kenneth Wyniemko and wife

One of the Michigan prisoners involved was Kenneth Wyniemko, whose exoneration was featured recently in “The Innocence Files,” a Netflix series authored by the Equal Justice Initiative. But Wyniemko was the only prisoner of those 140 to win exoneration.

At the time, Shelton’s attorneys were trying to get the forensic evidence in his case re-tested for DNA, to strengthen the earlier biological tests on hair evidence excluding him, and to see if the actual perpetrator could be identified. That was not done. Since that time, Shelton says, Innocence Clinics have considered his case three more times, with no resolution.

But Shelton’s son David said he and his family were contacted last year by Atty. Lori Montgomery, of  State Attorney General Nessel’s Conviction Integrity Unit. The AG’s CIU and the Western Michigan University/Cooley Law Innocence Clinic received federal grants of over $1 million in 2019 which require the two agencies to assess if unreliable forensic practices led to a conviction in cases of plausible innocence.

VOD contacted the AG’s office through its spokesperson Courtney Covington, who said the AG’s office is not allowing public discussion of individual cases. But Covington did provide VOD with the following update on the project in an email.

“As of today we have received letter requests for assistance from 945 people. We sent applications out and have received 342 applications back thus far. We have sent 75 cases to the Cooley Innocence Project – our partner agency under the federal grant – for further evaluation of forensic evidence.”

Lori Montgomery (l) of AG’s office with Marla Mitchell-Cichon (center) and Daniela Mendez (r) of WMU/Cooley Law Innocence Project, a member of the national Innocence Network. 

Covington said 122 claims have been rejected because they did not meet the projects prerequisites. These include exclusion of cases from Wayne County, (which has its own CIU), or cases in federal court or outside the state.

“Most important, we cannot review legal errors or cases where the claimant has not raised an allegation of new evidence (not offered to the trial court) illustrating innocence,” Covington noted. Shelton’s case does in fact involve such an allegation.

Covington said that the AG’s CIU was announced in April 2019, but did not receive actual funding until January 2020.  She said the true impact of COVID-19 in Michigan was not felt until March 9, which has delayed DNA work. Robyn Frankel, the head of the AG’s CIU, worked up until Jan. 2020 reviewing previous Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act claims, which resulted in the AG’s authorization of payment to many claimants.

Frankel provided VOD with an overview of the CIU’s policies and procedures, and an application, at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Michigan-AG-CIU-Overview-and-Application-4.7.20-1.pdf.

Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor

Commentary by Ricardo Ferrell: The statewide Conviction Integrity Unit should be all over the Shelton case. This conviction against David Shelton should be the linchpin in revealing the level of corruption out in Oakland County. They’ve gotten away for a long time with targeting Black folks, putting them in jail and sending them off to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. What kind of system of justice sends innocent people to prison and doesn’t think twice about how that impacts families.  

VOD has extensively gone over court documents in the Shelton case and doesn’t see how the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office in their right conscience could argue for a conviction to stand that isn’t supported by any physical evidence. The DNA itself excludes David Shelton, the fingerprints on the mask, a key piece of the prosecution’s so-called evidence, didn’t match Shelton’s prints and the most shocking piece of evidence found was that of DNA (hair) in the victim’s bed that did not have any Negroid traits. So, how can an African American, namely David Shelton, stand convicted of such a crime? 

VOD reports, but when you have corrupt cops, an overzealous prosecutor’s office and a victim willing to give perjured, coached and false testimony against a Black man, you simply don’t stand a chance in the racist Oakland County. It has been this way out in Oakland for decades. Black defendants are treated as if they are automatically guilty. Never mind the notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty;’ that premise just don’t count, if your skin is Black.

Shelton’s case is also featured on a national website at  https://wronglyconvictedgroup.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/david-sheldon/.

And in son David Stinson’s Change.Org petition https://www.change.org/p/all-evidence-presented-looking-for-representation-in-wrongful-conviction-case-dna-evidence-that-we-provide-exonerates-all-black-men-from-this-crime

Related documents: 

MSP LAB REPORTS IN DAVID SHELTON CASE:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DShelton-MSP-lab-reports-pages-1-3-compressed.pdf

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DShelton-MSP-lab-reports-pages-4-6-compressed.pdf

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DShelton-MSP-lab-reports-pages-7-9-compressed.pdf

SOLOMON V. ROYAL OAK TOWNSHIP:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/SOLOMON-V-ROYAL-OAK-TOWNSHIP.pdf

OAKLAND FUMBLES SEX CASE CHARGES (full article) http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/OAKLAND-FUMBLES-SEX-CASE-CHARGES.pdf


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JUSTICE DELAYED, JUSTICE DENIED: HOW THE SYSTEM FAILED AHMAUD ARBERY, BREONNA TAYLOR

Angry march and run against the murder of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, GA.

ARTICLE FROM THE INNOCENCE PROJECT WEBSITE; PHOTOS, VIDEOS ADDED BY VOD

The Innocence Project stands with Ahmaud Arbery, presumed guilty and robbed of his life in broad daylight.

The publicity around Arbery’s murder finally brought to light the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky in March

By Daniele Selby

Ahmaud Arbery (Family photo)

On Feb. 23, Ahmaud Arbery went for a run near his home in Satilla Shores, on the outskirts of Brunswick, Georgia, as he had many times before. The 25-year-old loved to run and was an athlete in high school, but his run and his life were unjustly cut short that afternoon when two white men — father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael — shot and killed Arbery, a Black man.

After spotting Arbery on his run, the McMichaels picked up their guns and pursued him in a truck. Gregory told police that he and his son thought Arbery resembled a man suspected of recent break-ins in the area. However, public records showed only one recent burglary in the area in which a gun was stolen from an unlocked truck outside Travis’ house, the Brunswick News reported. Arbery is not reported to have been a suspect in that crime.

The father and son pair claimed self-defense, and for 11 weeks, no arrests were made for the death of Arbery. In fact, after one prosecutor recused herself from the investigation because Gregory had worked in her office as a police officer, a second prosecutor, George Barnhill, took over the case and found no reason to charge the McMichaels for the killing of an innocent man at all. Barnhill eventually recused himself because his son had previously worked with Gregory, and because Barnhill’s son and Gregory had been involved in a previous, unrelated investigation of Arbery.

It was only after a video showing the two armed men approaching and fatally shooting Arbery surfaced, leading to nation-wide outrage, that the McMichaels were finally arrested on May 7 — one day before Arbery, known as Maud by his friends and family, would have celebrated his 26th birthday. 

But we cannot say justice is being served because justice delayed is justice denied. Why did it take three months, a leaked video of Arbery’s violent death, and national outcry for the wheels of justice to be set in motion?

Arbery’s death highlights glaring inequality and racism that pervades all aspects of life in the United States, including the legal system. Throughout history, Black people — and Black men, in particular — have been robbed of the presumption of innocence and a fair shot at justice.

Innocent Black people are seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than white people, the National Registry of Exonerations reported. And, while Black people make up just 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 40% of the nearly 2.3 million incarcerated people in the country. This is not because of Black people commit more crimes, but, in large part, because of the way Black communities and other communities of color are policed and presumed guilty. Numerous studies have shown that Black and Latinx people are more likely to be stopped, searched, and suspected of a crime (even when no crime has occured), due to implicit and explicit biases.

“I wish the world would have gotten the chance to know Ahmaud…”

But Arbery wasn’t even stopped and frisked by law enforcement. He was presumed guilty, judged, and executed by two everyday citizens acting as vigilantes. The McMichaels then continued to live freely and were not held accountable for their actions. Instead they were shielded by law enforcement, until a leaked video of Arbery’s unjust killing made it impossible for them to do so any longer.

The video was released by Alan Tucker, a criminal defense lawyer who consulted with the McMichaels, in an effort to bridge racial and communal tension that has followed the 25-year-old’s death. He wanted to show that “It wasn’t two men with a Confederate flag in the back of a truck going down the road and shooting a jogger in the back,” Tucker told the New York Times.

But the lack of a Confederate flag present at Arbery’s killing does not indicate a lack of racism leading to his death nor in the investigation of his death.

Though the McMichaels didn’t carry a Confederate flag and are not reported to have used racial slurs against Arbery, the McMichaels racially profiled him and assumed an innocent man going for a jog was guilty of a minor property crime — for which they sentenced him to death.

Killers, Gregory and Travis McMichael, finally charged with murder.

As a Black man, Arbery didn’t have the freedom to safely go for a run in his own neighborhood. Yet, as white men, the McMichaels were given a pass for their fatal “citizen’s arrest” by a prosecutor. If two Black men had carried out a “citizen’s arrest” of a white man in Georgia that resulted in his killing, it is unlikely they would have walked free as the McMichaels did.

For two months after Arbery’s death, his family and friends feared that he would simply be forgotten, especially because their ability to safely protest and gather in his honor have been hindered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They feared that justice in his case would never be pursued.

Their fear was not unfounded.

An analysis of more than 52,000 murders by the Washington Post found that homicides are more likely to be “solved” when the victim is white than when the victim is Black or Latinx. In Oakland, California, for example, the Washington Post found that arrests were made in 63% of homicide cases with white victims, but just 46% of homicide cases in which the victim was Black.

Photos of Breonna Taylor, a decorated EMT, at a memorial site for her.

The biases seen in Arbery’s case are the same kinds of biases that encourage law enforcement officials to rush to pursue certain suspects with tunnel vision, instead of conducting a robust investigation into several potential suspects. In March, Breonna Taylor was shot dead in Louisville, Kentucky, by police officers who were looking for a man suspected in a drug-related crime. The man did not live in Taylor’s apartment complex and, at the time of her killing, was already in police custody. And not only do law enforcement officials preemptively judge suspects due to their implicit and explicit racial biases, but they also allow their judgement to color investigations. This is often the first step in a case toward wrongful conviction.

People across the U.S. — and the world — honored Arbery’s life this weekend, sharing photos of themselves running with the hashtag #IRunWithMaud. It’s not the 26th birthday celebration he likely would have chosen, but we hope that the increased awareness of racial bias in the criminal justice system raised by his unjust killing will inspire a real effort to dismantle such inequalities and racism and eradicate them from the legal system.

Following the global attention on the case, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the handling of Arbery’s killing. A different prosecutor has now been assigned to his case for the fourth time.

“I wish the world would have gotten the chance to know Ahmaud, to really truly love Ahmaud,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones told “NBC Nightly News” after the McMichaels’ arrests.

To the Arbery family, the Innocence Project mourns Ahmaud’s death and the opportunity to have known this young man. We stand with you in seeking justice for Ahmaud.

Related:

Justice Delayed, Justice Denied: How the System Failed Ahmaud Arbery

https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2020/05/16/breonna-taylor-attorneys-say-police-supplied-false-information/5205334002/

 


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AP EXCLUSIVE: TRUMP SHELVES DETAILED CDC GUIDE TO REOPENING COUNTRY

© Provided by Associated Press FILE – In this April 16, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, as Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, listens. The Trump administration has shelved a set of detailed documents created by the nation’s top disease investigators meant to give step-by-step advice to local leaders deciding when and how to reopen mass transit, day care centers, restaurants, bars and other public places during the still-raging pandemic. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) The AP obtained a copy from a second federal official who was not authorized to release it. The guidance was described in AP stories last week, prior to the White House decision to shelve it.

By JASON DEAREN and MIKE STOBBE, Associated Press

May 7, 2020 11 a.m.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Trump administration has shelved a document created by the nation’s top disease investigators with step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places during the still-raging coronavirus outbreak.

The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen.

DENVER, CO – MAY 6: Brandon Wilson, owner of AvidJet, disinfects a Frontier airplane with a fogger at Denver International Airport on Tuesday, May 6, 2020. ProShield, the microbiostatic agent used to disinfect the plane, will keep the aircraft clean for up to 90 days after application. Beginning this week, Frontier will require the use of masks by passengers and will implement temperature checks in the coming weeks.

It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official. The official was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The Trump administration has been closely controlling the release of guidance and information during the pandemic spurred by a new coronavirus that scientists are still trying to understand, with the president himself leading freewheeling daily briefings until last week.

Traditionally, it’s been the CDC’s role to give the public and local officials guidance and science-based information during public health crises. During this one, however, the CDC has not had a regular, pandemic-related news briefing in nearly two months. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield has been a member of the White House coronavirus task force, but largely absent from public appearances.

The dearth of real-time, public information from the nation’s experts has struck many current and former government health officials as dangerous.

“CDC has always been the public health agency Americans turn to in a time of crisis,” said Dr. Howard Koh, a Harvard professor and former health official in the Obama administration during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009. “The standard in a crisis is to turn to them for the latest data and latest guidance and the latest press briefing. That has not occurred, and everyone sees that.”

https://www.businessinsider.com/psychiatrists-submit-warning-trumps-mental-health-deteriorating-2019-12


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TIME TO FREE CARL HUBBARD; AP GONZALES JAILED KEY PROS. WITNESS AFTER HE RECANTED AT TRIAL

‘JUST MERCY’, starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx in a wrenching account of a wrongfully convicted man freed by Atty. Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative. Many more, like Carl Hubbard, languish in Michigan and U.S. prisons.

AP JAMES GONZALES DROVE ONLY KEY PROS. WITNESS OFF STAND, ORDERING ARREST FOR PERJURY AFTER RECANTATION  AT TRIAL

Hubbard’s 3-day bench trial in front of Judge Richard Hathaway in 1992: no gun or other forensics evidence, no eyewitness testimony presented

Police, prosecutors never investigated eyewitness statement naming a different perpetrator

Trial lawyer Ronald Giles, now a judge, swore in affidavit that recanted testimony of  pros. witness Curtiss Collins was key to  conviction

Hubbard’s latest appeal currently being reviewed for acceptance by Michigan Supreme Court

By Diane Bukowski

May 3, 2020

Carl Hubbard (MDOC photo)

DETROIT – Detroiter Carl Hubbard, now 55, has been serving a life without parole  sentence (death by incarceration) in Michigan for 28 years, convicted of the first-degree murder of Rodnell Penn on Jan. 17, 1992. His case is currently awaiting the Michigan Supreme Court’s approval of his most recent application for leave to appeal.

Hubbard’s case closely resembles that of George Clark and Kevin Harrington, co-defendants whose 2003 Inkster murder case was dismissed April 23 at the request of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, citing egregious police misconduct. (See box below.)

Attorney Wolfgang Mueller told the Detroit News about the Inkster case, “Threatening witnesses to make up a story and hiding evidence to grease the skids for a conviction cannot be tolerated by our society.”

Recorders Court Judge Richard P. Hathaway convicted Hubbard after a three-day bench trial in 1992. Assistant Wayne Co. Prosecutor James Gonzales presented no physical or forensic evidence, including the gun that killed Penn, fingerprints or gunshot residue. He presented no eyewitnesses.

His key witness, Curtiss Collins, a boyhood friend of Hubbard’s, claimed he saw Hubbard in the vicinity of the killing with the victim, then later recanted that testimony on the first day of Hubbard’s trial.

James Gonzales (r), currently Kym Worthy’s Chief of Special Operations.

In a glaring action ignored by courts through 28 years of Hubbard’s pro se appeals, Gonzales effectively drove his own key witness off the stand, ordering him immediately arrested by Detroit police on charges of perjury after his sworn recantation. A police report by Sgt. Ronald Gale attests that Gonzales ordered him to carry out the arrest.

Collins said that police and prosecutors threatened to charge him with Penn’s murder and other consequences to obtain his testimony, after holding him on the infamous 9th floor of DPD headquarters at 1300 Beaubien, home to the alleged “Ring of Snitches,” for two days until he reverted to Gonzales version of events.

Gonzales currently serves as Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s Chief of Special Operations, while Judge Hathaway went on to become a Chief Assistant to Worthy in 2005, before briefly stepping down to run for Wayne County Treasurer. He won that position, but stepped down as Treasurer after three months.

The players instrumental in convicting Hubbard in 1992 thus remain in powerful positions in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, giving that office reason to ignore any “dirty deeds” they committed in the past when responding to Hubbard’s appeals. Their prominence may have influenced the recent opinion rendered by Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Talon on Hubbard’s third motion for relief from judgment, rendered Oct. 2, 2019. (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Hubbard-Talon-answer-10-2-19.pdf]

(L to R): AP Richard Hathaway, Pros. Kym Worthy, retiring AP Augustus Huttings and Judge Timothy Kenny, currently chief judge of the Third Judicial Circuit Court.

Hubbard had filed that motion after numerous earlier appeals were rejected without any statement of fact by state appeals courts, only  declarations that he did not meet the standards for appeal.

Regarding the arrest of Curtiss Collins after he recanted his testimony during Hubbard’s trial in 1992,  Talon claimed, “…. neither the police nor the prosecutor intimidated the witness after his actual recanting . . .because the witness was forced to face perjury charges or testify against a man accused of murder. There was no intimidation, only a tough choice that Collins had brought about by his own actions.”

Collins, however, insists to this day that prosecutors and police  forced him to testify falsely. On October 31, 2017, he filed a sworn affidavit to that effect. In the affidavit, he says that he spent two days after his arrest for perjury in lock-up at DPD’s former headquarters at 1300 Beaubien.

That affidavit is backed up by numerous others from individuals who swore they did not see Collins at the scene of the murder, including two proprietors who swore he was not in their store with Penn on that day.  Collins had said he was in the store when he saw Hubbard with the victim. (See Collins’ affidavit at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Curtiss-Collins-affidavit.pdf).

“I returned on the third day of Carl Hubbard’s trial after spending two days at the 1300 Precinct where I was threatened by Homicide officers Sergeant [Joann] Kinney and Sergeant [Ronald] Gale with being charged with the murder of Mr. Penn if I didn’t say that I saw Carl Hubbard at the murder scene of Mr. Penn. This is why I testified in the manner I did on the third day of Carl Hubbard’s trial, because of the fear I had of Sergeant Kinney and Gale’s threats of charging and prosecuting me for a crime that I had no knowledge of.”

He said he spent 10 months in prison from 2014-15, afterwards realizing how hard it was for Hubbard. He also learned that Gonzales, Kinney and Gale were no longer in their respective positions and could not directly retaliate against him.

He swore that “my statements that I provided on Jan. 23, 1992 to Sgt. Kinney and Sgt. Gale, on Feb. 4, 1992 at Carl Hubbard’s preliminary examination, and on Sept. 2, 1992 at Carl Hubbard’s trial were false. Whereas today I recant those statements which were coerced from me by threats from AP Gonzales, Sgt. Kinney and Sgt. Gale.”

Below is VOD’s interview with Curtiss Collins last year.

Hubbard’s attorney at trial, Ronald Giles, who is now a 36th District Court Judge, signed an affidavit stating firmly as below (excerpt–see full document at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Atty-Ronald-Giles-letter-and-aff-Hubbard-habeas.pdf)

Judge Ronald Giles

Over the years, Hubbard has submitted dozens of affidavits attesting to his innocence including a key affidavit from Askia Hill, an eyewitness to the murder.

Hill’s full affidavit is at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Askia-Hill-affidavit-from-CH-habeas-

Hill swore that he saw the killing of Rodnell Penn and named the perpetrator as Mark Goings. Affidavits from others in the community stated that it was known that Goings wanted to retaliate against Penn for killing his brother.

Hill’s affidavit clearly goes to the issue of Hubbard’s actual innocence. In part, it read:

Last year, the Michigan Supreme Court approved additional language regarding “actual innocence” to be added to Michigan Court Rules, at MCR 6.502. That language states that the court may waive newly discovered evidence provisions of the rule “if it concludes that there is a significant possibility that the defendant is innocence of the crime.”

Additionally, MCR 770.1 has always stated  as follows, “770.1 Granting new trial to defendant. The judge of a court in which the trial of an offense is held may grant a new trial to the defendant, for any cause for which by law a new trial may be granted, or when it appears to the court that justice has not been done, and on the terms or conditions as the court directs.”

Judge Talon says in his ruling that he did not find affidavits from Hill and others “believable,” but legal experts say that a judge does not have the right to decide what is believable, that such evidence must go to the jury, if they are the finders of fact.

In his extremely well executed pro se 2013 habeas petition, Hubbard cited key cases from the U.S. and Michigan Supreme Courts, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that speak definitively to the issue of “actual innocence.” They include Schlup v. Delo 513 U.S. 298 (1995), and Souter v. Jones 395 F 3rd 577 (6th Circ. 2005).  (See part I of Hubbard’s petition at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Carl-Hubbard-habeas-petition-2013-pages-deleted-compressed.pdf.)

Hubbard’s case closely resembles that of George Clark and Kevin Harrington, co-defendants whose 2003 Inkster murder case was dismissed April 23 at the request of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

That office’s Conviction Integrity Unit said egregious police misconduct, including coercion of the only original eyewitness by Inkster police, was involved. That witness later recanted and was replaced by a witness who identified the real killer. Although the CIU would not identify the officer responsible, the Sixth Circuit Court did so in their ruling on Clark’s appeal, as Officer Anthony Abdallah.

According to that ruling, Abdallah threatened to take away the children of the purported eyewitness if she didn’t testify falsely against Harrington and Clark.

Sgt. JoAnn Kinney surfaced after her retirement from the DPD as a Wayne County Prosecutor’s investigator. She gained fame for claims that former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick assaulted her and another officer when they went to his sister’s house to serve a subpoena on him for the prosecutor.

Ironically, DPD Sgt. Kinney used the same tactic herself in the 1995 case of Thoanchelle Taylor.

Judge Kathleen MacDonald

In an article titled, “Detroit Police Inquiry Expands,” which cites Kinney, Detroit Free Press reporters Norman Sinclair and Ronald Hansen wrote, “In another murder case in which the city ultimately paid a five-figure settlement in 1995, a Wayne County Circuit Court judge harshly criticized Detroit police for locking up a mother of two children as a witness and illegally holding her until her 12-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son implicated her in the death.

“Judge Kathleen McDonald said she was outraged that police charged Thoanchelle Taylor with murder without ‘scintilla of evidence,’ as the judge put it. “If I have ever seen a case where the police have manufactured the facts, this is one. I have never had facts as egregious as this case.

“Veteran Homicide Sgt. Joann Kinney testified that she had Taylor locked up as a witness for days without charges against her and said there was no standard procedure as to how long witnesses could be held without being arrested. Kinney also admitted threatening to take Taylor’s children away if she did not cooperate. . .”

Kinney was also involved in eliciting a confession from a 12-year-old girl to a charge of murder of a child she was babysitting, by promising she could go home if she confessed. The confession was thrown out by the juvenile court judge in 1992. (See article below.)

JoAnn Kinney testified later in a federal civil lawsuit, Moore v. City of Detroit, 07-11787,  that the City of Detroit had a policy and practice of detaining witnesses. (Docket No. 20, Exh. D, Dep. of Joann Kinney, pp. 40-50). See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/People-v-Moore-.pdf. Of course, that policy had been thoroughly exposed when the U.S. Department of Justice put the DPD under a consent agreement, with regard to its use of force and practice of witness round-ups in 2003.

For his part, DPD Sgt. Ronald Gale was cited by the Michigan Supreme Court in a case very similar to Hubbard’s, People v. Jenkins, 450 Mich. 249 (1995). In Jenkins, Justices James H. Brickley, Charles L. Levin and Michael F. Cavanagh reversed the 1995 conviction of Steven Jenkins for the murder of Demowens Harris in 1989 and remanded it for a new trial. The full opinion is at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/People-v-Jenkins.pdf.

Sgt. Ronald D. Gale passed in 2014; family photo from obituary.

In that case, Gale elicited a written statement from witness Reginald Pennington indicating that he had seen defendant Steven Jenkins riding toward the murder victim and that gunfire took place immediately after Jenkins left Pennington’s line of sight. At trial, however, Pennington denied the content of the statement, despite having signed it. The prosecutor then had Gale read the statement into the record word for word.

The State Supreme Court said, “Shortly after the shooting, Reginald Pennington gave police a signed statement that immediately before the incident he had seen Jenkins riding in a gold Sunbird toward the crime scene, and that gunfire erupted immediately after the vehicle left Pennington’s line of sight.[6] Called as a prosecution witness, Pennington offered little useful information. He testified rather that he was sitting on his porch a block away from the crime scene when he heard shots and saw a crowd gather.”

The court continued, “Over defense objections, the prosecutor questioned Sergeant Gale, the police officer who took Pennington’s statement. The prosecutor had Gale read much of Pennington’s statement. Gale quoted Pennington as saying:

102 Leicester Ct. Google photo

“At about 6 P.M., I’m sitting on the porch of 102 Leicester. A gold Sunbird rode past the house, and as soon as it got out of my eyesight, I heard the shooting. One of my friends came around there where I was at and told me that Steve [Jenkins] had shot [the victim] Demowens in the head. Steve [Jenkins] is the one that drives the gold Sunbird.” [Emphasis added.]

The Court added that Gale was also permitted to read word for word from an attached  memorandum, “I saw the driver of the car and the passenger. I didn’t see who was in the back seat of the car.” He recognized in the car “Steven Jenkins and this guy named Spanky.” Jenkins was “[i]n the front passenger side.” Spanky “was the driver of the car.” He heard “[a]bout 11” shots fired. Gale also asked Pennington whether he had ever seen Jenkins with a gun before, and Pennington responded, “Yes, a .45 automatic, nickelplated.” “Every time [Jenkins] gets out of the car to go in that building, he has the gun in his hand.”

Carl Hubbard, convicted in 1992, is one of many prisoners from Detroit who were caught up in the rabid practices of the Detroit Police Department during the 1990’s, which included unbridled witness round-ups and detention, killings by police (Detroit had the highest number of any city in 1999), and unchecked tens of thousands of frame-ups. 

Those practices began many decades ago when the “Big Four” DPD cars roamed the city, singling out young Blacks for arrest, to the 1967 rebellion, when dozens of poor, largely Black people were murdered by police and the National Guard, to STRESS (Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets), whose undercover cops slaughtered Black men at random, and continuing to the present day.

Many believed Mayor Coleman Young’s election put an end to such practices, but they continued unabated through the decades following to the present day. In this system, police are the descendants of the slave-catchers of previous centuries, and agents of mass incarceration in the present. They do not serve the people, but the wealthy white supremacist class.

Related stories:

JUDGE TO REVIEW CASE OF CARL HUBBARD, IN PRISON SINCE 1992; INNOCENCE BACKED BY DOZENS

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/02/28/ramon-ward-family-celebrate-release-after-27-yrs-on-false-conviction-when-will-100s-more-be-freed/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/05/mi-supreme-ct-grants-rehearing-to-thelonious-searcy-hitman-confessed-judge-ap-lied-to-jury/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/05/mi-supreme-ct-grants-rehearing-to-thelonious-searcy-hitman-confessed-judge-ap-lied-to-jury/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/02/11/rush-to-judgment-judicial-bias-re-race-mental-illness-evident-in-michigan-lifers-convictions/

NINETY INGHAM COUNTY, MI LIFERS MAY GET SECOND CHANCE; PROS. CAROL SIEMON OPPOSES LWOP


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MASS MURDER IN MICH.: GOV. SAYS ‘NOTHING SHE CAN DO’ TO RELEASE MORE PRISONERS AS COVID ENGULFS MDOC

OVER HALF OF LAKELAND CF’S PRISONERS, 787, TEST POSITIVE

COVID ‘SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE’ THROUGH MACOMB, PARNALL, HURON VALLEY, OTHER PRISONS, WOMEN AND MEN LEFT TO DIE 

MASS EVACUATION NEEDED

MI. GOV. WHITMER, PAROLE BOARD REFUSE EMERGENCY RELEASE FOR MOST PRISONERS

By Diane Bukowski

April 28, 2020

For a PDF copy of this article to print out, click 0n http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/MASS-MURDER-IN-MICHIGAN-Voice-of-Detroit-4-28-2020.pdf

The genocidal purpose of mass incarceration in Michigan and across the U.S., with 70 percent of prisoners Black or others of color, is becoming starkly apparent in Michigan’s prisons. Today the state’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said ‘there is nothing she can safely do’ to release more inmates after half the population at Lakeland Correctional Facility, 787 prisoners, tested positive for the coronavirus, and deaths continue to rise throughout the system.

One prisoner at Lakeland said Whitmer is likely seeking higher office as presidential candidate Joe Biden’s vice-president and doesn’t want to rock the boat, no matter how many prisoners die on her watch.

Prisoners at Macomb CF taking “Chance for Life” re-entry program. Will they really have a chance for life?

Particularly hard hit also are Macomb Correctional Facility, which houses many juvenile lifers awaiting re-sentencings of their unconstitutional life sentences, Parnall, and Huron Valley Women’s prisons.

Two prisoners, Kevin Harrington at Macomb and George Clark at Lakeland, barely escaped the COVID scourge after the Michigan Innocence Clinic and the Wayne County Conviction Integrity got them released after finding they had not committed the murder for which they had been imprisoned since 2002. Private investigator/advocate Scott Lewis has estimated that 30 percent of Michigan prisoners are in fact innocent.

Naykima Hill

Bernice Starks

Efren Paredes, Jr., whose account of the current situation at Lakeland is below, along with 200 juvenile lifers serving unconstitutional “cruel and unusual” life sentences are still awaiting federally-mandated re-sentencings ordered eight years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court.

At Huron Valley Women’s Prison, sued earlier over its abominable conditions, women including Ursula Heard, Sue Farrell, Dawn York, and Ava Cooper have died from COVID-19, while others including Naykima Hill, Bernice Starks, Mary Lemons, Ursula Bolton, Marinda Hudson and Towanda Eppenger are suffering from it.

T. Eppenger

Nikki Keech

A comment on the Facebook page for Women from Huron Valley, Scotts, and Florence Crane prison facilities is here:

Mary Marshall Ellison to Florence crane, Scotts, Huron Valley Womens Facility  Apr 21 ·  · I just spoke to Ursula daughter she said that her mother was in a coma for 2 weeks before they found out and they are so upset and they’re trying to decide what to do keep them in prayer she has 3 sons and a daughter And they just found out yesterday that she was on a ventilator. They r taking Ursula off life support soon cause she is brain dead fought MS FOR A WHILENOW.”

Ursula Heard, passed 4/21/2020 from COVID.

Ricky Rimmer-Bey at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional facility discounted MDOC’s claims that prisoners and staff are practicing “social distancing,” saying it is impossible to do so. He said each guard is required to “shake down” (physically search) five prisoners per shift. He said they do not change gloves between searches, and are bringing the coronavirus in from the outside. He said prisoners must remove the flimsy masks they are given to eat in the chow hall, with people sitting one foot away from each other.

“They have us locking two in a cell,” Rimmer continued. “These cells are the size of an apartment bathroom in the projects. If your cell-mate catches this virus, no matter what you do, you will be infected. So social distancing is a myth and a story to deceive the public, for us living this nightmare know what the real truth is.

Rimmer-Bey and many other MDOC prisoners are serving life terms for “felony murder,” which means they did not commit murder, but were involved in a lesser crime that they did not intend to result in murder. That charge was ruled unconstitutional in 1980 in People v. Aaron, but the ruling was never made retroactive.

Ricky Rimmer-Bey

“State Representative Isaac Robinson, who sadly passed from COVID this month, was fighting for incarcerated people in Michigan, especially pre-Aaron prisoners,” Rimmer-Bey said. “Their sentences and trials were tainted and their sentences have been ruled ‘fundamentally unfair.’ It is also fundamentally unfair to allow these men and women who on the average have served over forty plus years to possibly die with this virus going on in here. These prisoners are in their sixties. We are the best risk because we have aged out of criminal thinking and have already suffered one miscarriage of justice.”

In a second JPay April 24, he reported on the consequences of those policies in a prison that originally had no COVID cases.

“It is reported that 45 new cases have popped up in here, and that the death rate is at 25,” Rimmer wrote. “All they do to so-called test staff that come in here is to take their temp, which shows nothing if one is asymptomatic. This one person can infect five people, that five can go on and infect five apiece. they got two guys now in A-unit under watch. I have high blood pressure and  am 66 years of age. If I catch that mess, I’m through. I don’t fear death, but this is not how I envisioned myself passing, gasping for air, suffering, surrounded by people that give less than nothing for my well-being.”

Pres. candidate Joe Biden with Mich. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Neither supports universal health care, which might have headed off the coronavirus pandemic.

He said there is indeed something Gov. Whitmer can do despite her denials, and called on justice advocates to contact her to demand that she do so.

“The governor can commute sentences of guys that do have life in prison that have served 30, 40 years plus that have aged out of criminal thinking and are not a threat to the community. That’s me and a host of others. One guy just passed [from COVID] two weeks ago, he had been locked up 40-years or more. He’d gotten a parole. The sad thing is that he had to wait to be let out. Wait for what. in the meantime, he caught that mess and is now dead. If a person gets a parole, then what the heck does he have to wait on? Give him a health screening test, get his home placement, then let that person out of here with this pandemic going on.”

NEARLY 800 CORONAVIRUS CASES AT LAKELAND CORRECTIONAL, AND STILL COUNTING

by Efrén Paredes, Jr. bitly.com/freeefren

April 24, 2020

Efren Paredes was a 15-year old honor student in Berrien County when he was falsely charged with first degree murder in the death of a store proprietor. As a juvenile lifer, he should long ago have been re-sentenced.

It has been a very somber week at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) in Coldwater, Michigan, where nearly 800 incarcerated men have received the heartbreaking news that they have tested positive for COVID-19. LCF outnumbers the prison with the second highest number of those infected by over 600 cases.

As of April 27, 2020 at 9:30 am the number of incarcerated people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) is 1,363. This morning five more deaths of incarcerated people in the MDOC was announced from just yesterday bringing the total number of deaths of incarcerated people statewide to 38. LCF now has 13 deaths; five of them have occurred in the past five days.

I am one of the men incarcerated at LCF who has had the misfortune of witnessing up close the devastating impact this experience is having on the lives of scores of vulnerable people struggling to survive daily in the midst of a vicious pathogen storm sweeping through the nation’s prisons.

Lakeland Correctional Facility/WMMT photo

Friday afternoon I was informed by a staff member that I tested negative for COVID-19. I received an uncomfortable nasal swab test for the virus two days earlier. Waiting for the test results was agonizing. I suspected the number of people who would test positive would be extraordinarily high, and the likelihood that I contracted the virus would be as well.

Living in densely populated housing units makes it nearly impossible to mitigate and contain the spread of a lethal disease like COVID-19 which is ten times more contagious than the seasonal flu, according to scientists. In these spaces dozens of people use the same bathrooms, sinks, showers, microwaves, phones, etc. They spend every moment in the housing unit — when awake or sleeping — breathing the same air and exposed to one another’s respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes.

I knew that this, coupled with the fact that the prison kept rebuffing pleas for them to suspend use of the dining hall to feed 1,300 people in a crowded space less than two feet apart, three times a day for weeks, was a recipe for disaster. People were dangerously being exposed to the virus ad nauseam.

Lakeland has 58% of all COVID-19 cases, 34% of deaths in MDOC

Of the total number of COVID-19 tests administered at LCF an astonishing 57% people have tested positive so far. The prison represents 58% of all COVID-19 cases and 34% of the deaths of the entire Michigan prison system. These numbers are the result of robust testing that occurred at the prison last week.

However, these results are deeply flawed.

Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) dorm setting: up to 80 prisoners live in such dorms; no social distancing possible.

The housing units where the least number of people tested positive were from the barracks-style pole barn housing units (i.e., E and F Units). These are the housing units I wrote about for weeks where people had complained that they had been very sick with COVID-19 symptoms, and being repeatedly denied COVID-19 tests and medical care if they didn’t have a fever.

Antibody testing would likely reveal that many of the people who tested negative in these housing units were already infected and recovered. On the one hand it means most people were able to survive. However, on the other hand it means people also suffered who could have received help.

Monday a new study revealed that 70% of the people who contracted COVID-19 and required hospitalization in New York never had a fever. This means it was a grave mistake for medical providers in Michigan prisons to use the absence of a fever as the gold standard to decide whether or not a person should receive a COVID-19 test.

Though I felt an enormous sense of relief to receive my test results I was deeply saddened to learn about the test results many men living in my housing unit and throughout the prison were receiving. It felt as though time had frozen as everyone was waiting at attention with bated breath to hear their fate.

Graduates of LCF’s leader dog training program.

In my housing unit a staff supervisor began walking past a line of men awaiting to be told their test results pointing at them and loudly saying, “You’re positive. You’re moving to housing unit …” and proceeded to tell them where they were being moved to.

The staff member could have simply told each person their results in a lower voice or pointed at a piece of paper at the words “positive” or “negative” and told them what housing unit they were moving to. A number of different ways to deliver the news would have been more dignified.

It was a shameful display of callousness and insensitivity which humiliated the men who were already in a very fragile mental and emotional state as they awaited their test results. It was brutally difficult seeing the immediate looks of fear and dread on their faces as I saw the men hang their heads down, or silently shake their heads back and forth, as they became awash with distress.

I have known many of these men for years and even decades in some cases. Some of us are friends, some of us partner on social justice projects and hosting outside guests to speak at the prison, and I see some of them on visits with their family when my family visits me.

Positive COVID-19 test results are potentially a death sentence.

The connections we share are not something I take lightly because I recognize the inherent dignity of every single person. I also know the brutal difficulty they experience every day struggling to survive isolated from their loved ones behind bars when they aren’t battling a deadly virus.

Seeing their pain and sadness was excruciatingly difficult to observe as I repeatedly heard the staff member echoing the words “You’re positive,” and telling dozens of them where they were moving to. Every time I heard the shouting voice pierce the eery silence in the room I kept thinking, “That could have been me who tested positive.”

In the midst of this we were told by the staff member that people testing positive were being moved to housing units designated for people who tested positive to separate them from the rest of the population to mitigate further spread of the disease. Moving mass numbers of men to various housing units around the prison would not come without its mistakes, however.

Some examples included moving more than one person being assigned to the same bed, people being sent to a housing unit and told to just wait to be assigned a bed because no bed was available at the time, and people being moved multiple times to different housing units before finally being assigned to a bed.

VA nurse displays sign with proper treatment protocols for positive COVID-19 patients and staff. Such measures are not in place in state prisons.

Even more disturbing is that there have also been people who were told they tested positive for COVID-19 and moved into a housing unit designated for people who tested positive for the disease, only to be told days later they actually tested negative. They were then moved out of the housing unit to a housing for people who tested negative.

Sunday several of these men moved into my housing unit which is designated for people who have tested negative. They were there for three or four days before staff discovered the error. Not only were the men exposed to dozens of people knowingly infected with COVID-19 during that time, they are now potentially exposing dozens of people in my housing unit, me included, to the virus as well.

I met one man who tested negative for COVID-19 today who moved to my housing unit after being in a housing unit for men who tested positive for the disease for the past three days who I will refer to as J.S. According to J.S., he has Stage 3 neurofibromatosis which forms tumors inside his body, and he only has one lung. He is also handicapped and uses a walker.

COVID-19 funeral.

J.S. stated he was told by LCF that he tested positive a few days ago. He subsequently called his brother and shared the news with him about the test results. J.S.’s brother immediately burst into tears and told him, “Damn, now I have to bury my baby brother too,” and began looking into making funeral arrangements for him because of his serious underlying medical conditions.

J.S.’s brother told him he had already lost four uncles and an aunt to COVID-19 during the past few weeks, and figured he would be next. His brother and family were placed under this duress only to later be told by his doctor that he was mistakenly provided the wrong information about his COVID-19 test results.

In one housing unit when men were being separated into different housing units based on their test results they were told that all the test results hadn’t returned yet. Despite this, 58 people were being moved to housing units for people with negative results, and 12 were being moved into the housing unit for those testing positive. The 12 people were the ones that had not received their test results back yet.

When two incarcerated men who tested negative approached a staff supervisor asking why the 12 would be moved to a positive unit if they hadn’t tested positive a staff member responded, “It’s a numbers game. I know these 58 guys are negative so I’m going to protect them. I don’t know what’s going on with the other 12 guys. I just have to sacrifice them for the greater good.”

What would have been best for the greater good would have been to leave the 12 men isolated in an area together until they received their test results, not jeopardize their lives by deliberately moving them into housing units for people who had tested positive.

According to a staff member who works at the prison who has been observing this activity, “This place is a complete cluster f*ck right now. It’s a disaster. No one knows what they’re doing.”

Monday morning a man who has lived in my housing unit for the past few months was told he had to move to a housing unit designated for people who have tested positive for COVID-19. He was informed three days earlier when I was that he tested negative for the virus.

Staff since discovered they made a mistake in his case as well. Unfortunately, however, not until after he remained in our housing unit unwittingly shedding virus the past few days and putting dozens of people at risk.

I have also learned there are several men whose COVID-19 tests returned from the lab inconclusive. Those people were dispersed throughout the prison in various housing units as well for a couple days before staff discovered the error and placed them in a separate housing unit and retested them. They will reportedly remain there until the outcome of their test results.

While moving all the people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the prison together into the same housing units may sound good on its face, when one unpacks the specifics and examines it granularly it presents a serious set of challenges.

To begin with, placing people infected with COVID-19 together in crowded living areas less than six feet from one another is not a practice that any epidemiologist would recommend. If it was a medically safe practice physicians would be using the practice with members of the public. They’re not.

Secondly, there are going to be people living in the same space at various stages of the virus. Some may be closer to just beginning their recovery, some will be in the middle of it, and then there will be some who may have possibly been near the end.

Placing an elderly person with underlying comorbidities into a sea of 80 people with Coronavirus could increase that person’s viral load to a fatal level. For others, their viral load will increase as well and make it more difficult for them to combat the virus. Some may become trapped in a vicious cycle of infection and the virus may even begin to mutate and become more potent.

Old age in the big house/Photo Al Jazeera

Friday a 79-year-old man from my housing unit who tested positive for COVID-19 learned he was being sent to a housing unit designated for people who have been infected with the disease. As he was leaving he told me, “I hope I die. I can’t keep living like this. I’ve been in here 44 years. They’re gonna kill me sending me over there.”

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading epidemiologist and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, there is absolutely no evidence that someone who catches COVID-19 cannot become reinfected. The World Health Organization announced the same conclusion on Saturday.

Sunday as a number of men were moved around the prison I received a number of reports of serious concern. Among them are that only some of the housing units for men who have tested positive for COVID-19 have received therapeutics of any kind.

A couple reported they have received vitamins but others reported that they have not. Before the crisis began LCF administrators told incarcerated people they would also receive Theraflu and Gatorade if they contracted the disease. As of Tuesday, April 28, 2020, no one has reported receiving either.

Sunday morning when men asked an LCF administrator why they hadn’t received any of the three therapeutics mentioned above they were told, “I don’t know, I don’t work for Health Care.” As he began walking away he remarked, “If you have anymore questions let me know, I’ll be around this week.”

Medical staff are also supposed to be conducting temperature and oxygen saturation level checks (or pulse oximetry measurements) twice a day in every housing unit where people have tested positive for COVID-19. Medical staff are going to some of the units once some days and other days they aren’t going at all.

Some people could be experiencing silent hypoxia (i.e., deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching bodily tissues) and, if not properly monitored, their bodies can crash, potentially resulting in severe organ failure or even death.

There are hundreds of cameras throughout the prison that can verify this information for the Governor, Attorney General, Department of Health and Human Services, MDOC Central Office Staff, and the Office of the Legislative Corrections Ombudsman to observe for themselves if they care.

I highly encourage the MDOC to also provide COVID-19 tests to all staff members like they have for incarcerated people at LCF so we can ensure that they are healthy and have not contracted the virus. Statewide 254 staff members have unfortunately contracted the disease. Thirty-one of those staff members work at LCF.

Screening prison staff for COVID

According to one staff member, “They don’t want to test us because they won’t have enough people to work so many people will test positive.”

That’s not a reason to not test staff members. Their health and safety should be paramount, as well as the health and safety of incarcerated people they work around. Without ensuring everyone is free of the disease at the prison there is no way to mitigate or contain its persistent spread.

There will continue to be COVID-19 outbreaks throughout Michigan prisons all over the state until a vaccine is created in 12 to 18 months. Scientists are already predicting a COVID-19 resurgence in the Fall as well that will be more lethal than the current wave of attack.

The bodies of incarcerated people who are fortunate to survive the disease this time around have been seriously compromised. Many will suffer irreversible lung, heart, and kidney damage, and their bodies may not be resilient enough to survive a second wave of infection.

The other thing to remember is that deaths lag behind the number of people identified as having COVID-19. For weeks to come we will continue hearing about incarcerated people succumbing to the virus in Michigan prisons. We still have a long way to go.

Don’t Gov. Whitmer and MDOC officials have the intent to murder, at least by egregious neglect?

I realize there aren’t any panaceas in this crisis. But I also know the MDOC can do much better than this. With the wealth of collective knowledge and public health resources available to them they can make more informed choices that are evidence-based and data driven.

They have to want to do it though. The key here is intent. What does the MDOC really hope to achieve? Does it intend to save lives or let COVID-19 run it’s course and observe the outcome? Both can’t exist at the same time. Human lives should not be part of some nefarious experiment to see how they will respond to a deadly virus untreated.

Many lives are going to be claimed by COVID-19 if serious action is not taken by the MDOC to ensure that medical staff are doing their jobs. Responses by administrators like, “I don’t know what they’re doing, I don’t work for health care” are recklessly irresponsible and a deplorable failure to protect the people in their care.

Every person holding public office including the Governor, the Attorney General, lawmakers, mayors, members of city councils, judges, prosecutors, Sheriffs, and everyone else should know that voters are watching all this play out very closely.

Most families in Black majority cities like Detroit have relatives in the prison system, on probation or parole, or awaiting trial.

Over 100,000 people in Michigan are in prison, jail, on parole, or probation. They each have family members and friends. There are also thousands of formerly incarcerated people who see this and they have loved ones as well. These are only some of the people whose lives have been impacted by the criminal justice system.

When these citizens step into the voting booth this November and forward they will NOT forget the names of every person seeking public office who silently stood by allowing this human rights tragedy to occur under their watch without intervening because they lacked the courage, political will, or decency to speak out.

Between now and November 3 prison reform advocates across this state will be working diligently every day to identify public office candidates to support our efforts and ensure that the memory of mishandling this crisis is never forgotten. They will also be working to register voters and organize to ensure they each make it to their voting precincts.

Michigan prison reform must happen now. It begins with the Governor exercising her executive authority to immediately commute the sentences of:

* Elderly people with underlying morbidities who could die if they contract COVID-19;

* People who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole when they were juveniles and have been awaiting resentencing for eight years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled their sentences were unconstitutional in 2012;

* People who have served over 20 years in prison who would not pose a danger to society if released (with priority given to those who have served the most time being released first); and

* Reducing the density in overcrowded prisons by eliminating double-bunking and separating all beds in prison housing units by at least six feet, so incarcerated people can stand a fighting chance of surviving the crisis of future deadly pandemics.

Anyone released could be placed on a tether and placed on release supervision by the Parole Board. The Governor commuting these sentences alone would not result in a single release. It would only give the Parole Board jurisdiction to begin reviewing the cases and grant them the authority to release them.

The Parole Board would use its wealth of resources to determine whether or not each person could be safely released back into the community as it does for thousands of people who are safely released each year. Anyone that does not fit that criteria would remain incarcerated.

Please keep every incarcerated person and prison staff member infected with COVID-19 in your thoughts and prayers — including their family members. We remain hopeful for as many of their full recoveries as possible.

I also ask that you pray for all those who have lost loved ones that have sadly succumbed to the deadly virus, and for the safety of those who have miraculously managed to somehow avoid contracting the disease thus far. #SMPR #AloneTogether #StayHomeStayStrong

(Efrén Paredes, Jr. is a blogger, thought leader, and social justice changemaker. He has been featured in various TV news, radio, and podcast interviews to discuss the COVID-19 crisis in Michigan prisons. His interviews and ongoing series about the crisis can be read at http://fb.com/Free.Efren.)

RELATED:

D.C. and Oakland County Jail COVID-19 Federal Lawsuits by ACLU

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/23/d-c-jail-guards-report-chaos-as-inmates-rise-up-vs-covid-19-lockdown-fed-court-order-in-place/

https://www.fox2detroit.com/news/oakland-county-jail-sued-by-groups-wanting-inmates-vulnerable-to-covid-19-released

https://www.michiganradio.org/post/lawsuit-oakland-county-jail-should-release-vulnerable-inmates

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Judge-Linda-Parker-TRO-re-Oakland-Co-Jail-prisoners.pdf

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Lawsuit-claims-Oakland-County-Jail-conditions-put-inmates-at-risk-for-COVID.pdf

Related from Voice of Detroit:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/19/release-aging-people-in-prison-before-they-die-end-life-without-parole/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/17/protesters-urge-whitmer-to-release-michigan-inmates-facing-risk-of-coronavirus-in-state-prisons/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/13/wayne-co-jail-residents-say-many-sick-dying-with-covid-19-mdoc-prisoners-say-large-numbers-too/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/08/lifer-efren-paredes-jr-reports-on-covid-19-in-mdoc-prisoners-in-grave-danger-world-wide/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/03/26/time-of-plague-and-meltdownmass-murder-by-corporate-duopoly-black-agenda-report/

 


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D.C. JAIL GUARDS REPORT ‘CHAOS’ AS INMATES RISE UP VS. COVID-19 LOCKDOWN; FED. COURT ORDER IN PLACE

Saliqa Khan, Nathan Baca

April 23, 2020

___________________________________________________________

Also see reports on similar  Oakland County Jail lawsuit by Michigan ACLU, linked below this story.

___________________________________________________________

WASHINGTON–D.C. jail guards put down an inmate protest Wednesday night over COVID-19 lockdown measures, according to a report obtained by WUSA9 written by D.C. jail guards and sent to DC’s Department of Corrections.

District of Columbia County Jail

One guard wrote of an “entire jail unit in chaos” Wednesday night after 8 p.m. when inmates began shouting through their cells and refusing to take their hands out of the food slots in protest.

Inmates claim they haven’t been allowed to shower for more than four days, or use the phones to call family and attorneys during COVID-19 lockdown.

Those claims are similar to what independent inspectors confirmed in the D.C. jail two weekends ago.

Two inmates were pepper-sprayed by guards when they refused to keep their hands in their cells.

WUSA9 asked D.C. Department of Corrections for comment and we’re waiting to hear back.

ACLU WINS SUIT AGAINST DC DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS CALLING FOR IMMEDIATE UPDATES AMID CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

An inmate has died from the coronavirus in a D.C. Jail, and employees have been worried about their safety due to the spread of coronavirus in the DOC system.

 Nick Boykin (WUSA9)

Published: 4:20 PM EDT April 19, 2020

Updated: 6:47 PM EDT April 19, 2020

WASHINGTON — A federal court judge is ordering D.C. Department of Corrections to immediately improve conditions info the D.C. Jail, after an ACLU lawsuit that laid out how DC DOC wasn’t providing adequate safety and health standards amid the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The court order called for better social distancing practices, better medical care for inmates and increased access to attorneys for inmates, among other specific requirements. See court order by D.C. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar Kelly  at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Banks-v-Booth-Court-Order-re-DC-Jail-prisoners-4-19-20.pdf.

DC District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly

“This is a significant victory for the more than 1,400 human beings still incarcerated by the District at the D.C. Jail,” said Steven Marcus, Staff Attorney, Special Litigation Division, Public Defender Service.

“The independent experts’ report confirmed many of our clients’ and jail staff members’ most damning allegations about conditions inside the Jail, and today’s decision orders the Department of Corrections to remedy those conditions right away.

 

Over 50 inmates at the D.C. Jail have tested positive for the coronavirus, and a 51-year-old inmate has even died from the coronavirus.

ACLU of D.C. joins Black Lives Matter protest

Banks v. Booth was a class-action lawsuit brought by the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and the ACLU of the District of Columbia. It is in connection with inmates at the D.C. Jail.

DOC officers also have filed a lawsuit alleging inmates at staff are not being properly protected during the outbreak.

The DOC’s Medical Department and Unity Healthcare are working with DC Health on contact tracing and to protect the health and well-being of all individuals in DOC’s facilities.

Below is a list of improvements that the D.C. Jail must make under the court order:

  • Jail-wide improvements in medical treatment, including expedited response to sick call requests;
  • Enforcement of social distancing, and better education and training for both prisoners and guards about COVID-19 precautions;
  • Consistent provision of proper cleaning supplies;
  • Improvement of conditions in isolation units, including ensuring access to daily showers, clean clothes and linens, and access to telephones for personal and legal calls, so that prisoners are not discouraged from reporting COVID-19 symptoms by the prospect of being isolated in punitive conditions;
  • Increased access to attorneys, including “access to confidential, unmonitored legal calls of a duration sufficient to discuss legal matters”; and
  • Improvements to visitor screening, including staff training on the use of infrared thermometers.

DEON CROWELL: FIRST INMATE DEATH AT D.C. JAIL

Mayor Muriel Bower on April 13 confirmed the first inmate death at the D.C. Central Detention Facility.

Deon Crowell, 51, passed away the morning of April 13, after being hospitalized from COVID-19, DOC officials confirm.

Deon Crowell

He was taken from the Correctional Treatment Facility and hospitalized on April 7, after testing positive for COVID-19 and experiencing respiratory issues. His next-of-kin were notified of his passing by the DOC Chaplain.

Crowell has been held at the DOC since June 29, 2018. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 on April 7 and was placed in isolation where he was monitored by medical staff according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and D.C. Health, officials said.

“Our condolences are with Mr. Crowell’s family during this difficult time,” D.C. Department of Corrections spokesperson Dr. Keena Blackmon said.

Blackmon said an email was sent to the staff at the D.C. Department of Corrections on April 13, notifying employees of Crowell’s death.

Atty. Elizabeth Weller

WUSA9 first reported Crowell’s attorneys had tried to secure a medical release days prior to his death. Attorney Elizabeth Weller released a statement to WUSA9 Monday afternoon.

“We are just devastated to learn of Deon Crowell’s death. He was awaiting trial. He was innocent and never proven guilty. There was no reason for him to die today.

“We asked the Court to release Mr. Crowell back on March 20th. He had multiple health problems and was particularly susceptible to COVID-19’s complications. He was prepared to be on 100% home confinement with GPS monitoring until the pandemic risks lessened. But the Court did not act or rule on the motion, and he was housed at the Correctional Treatment Facility, where we know the outbreak is spreading exponentially every day.

“The Department of Corrections failed to take appropriate actions to protect Mr. Crowell and the other inmates. They utterly failed to implement necessary precautions. This was bound to happen to someone, and will continue to happen to others without immediate action by the Department of Corrections or court-ordered relief in the Public Defender Service and ACLU-DC lawsuit against the DOC over conditions at its facilities.

“Mr. Crowell leaves behind a loving family: his devoted wife, his daughter, two grandchildren, and four siblings. He was a lifelong District resident who was well known around his neighborhood to check in on older neighbors and clean up unkempt yards and alleys,” Weller said.

Download the brand new WUSA9 app here.

Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news.

RELATED FROM WUSA9:

DOC: More than 50 inmates tested positive for coronavirus at DC detention facility

Housing resources available for returning citizens in Maryland amid pandemic 

Hazards found inside DC jails during surprise inspections

 ‘Do not send these DC residents out of DC!’ | Norton demands Hope Village men be kept close after halfway house closes

 DC Central Detention Facility records first inmate death after COVID-19 diagnosis

Related re: OAKLAND COUNTY JAILOakland County Jail COVID-19 Lawsuit by Michigan ACLU

https://www.fox2detroit.com/news/oakland-county-jail-sued-by-groups-wanting-inmates-vulnerable-to-covid-19-released

https://www.michiganradio.org/post/lawsuit-oakland-county-jail-should-release-vulnerable-inmates

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Judge-Linda-Parker-TRO-re-Oakland-Co-Jail-prisoners.pdf

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Lawsuit-claims-Oakland-County-Jail-conditions-put-inmates-at-risk-for-COVID.pdf

Related from Voice of Detroit:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/19/release-aging-people-in-prison-before-they-die-end-life-without-parole/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/17/protesters-urge-whitmer-to-release-michigan-inmates-facing-risk-of-coronavirus-in-state-prisons/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/13/wayne-co-jail-residents-say-many-sick-dying-with-covid-19-mdoc-prisoners-say-large-numbers-too/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/08/lifer-efren-paredes-jr-reports-on-covid-19-in-mdoc-prisoners-in-grave-danger-world-wide/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/03/26/time-of-plague-and-meltdownmass-murder-by-corporate-duopoly-black-agenda-report/

 


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RELEASE AGING PEOPLE IN PRISON BEFORE THEY DIE; END LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE

R.A.P.P. Free Our Elders Rally in Albany, N.Y.

New York’s Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) leads the way

Prisons are death camps for lifers; end Life Without Parole

Ricardo Ferrell

By Ricardo Ferrell 

VOD Field Editor

Our country is experiencing one of the worse pandemics in its history, and the death toll is rapidly rising daily. We must address the growing problem of aging people in prisons across America who are slowly deteriorating and dying due to poor health, inadequate medical attention and not being granted well-deserved releases. In Michigan there are hundreds of elderly individuals that have served 35, 40, 45, & 50 + years but still remain in prison despite statistical data. indicating they will likely never reoffend if granted parole.

In states like New York, efforts calling for the release of aging prisoners are getting the attention of many, including State Legislators, the New York Parole Board, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The New York-based organization RAPP (Release Aging People in Prison) founded in 2013 by Jose Saldana has been relentlessly advocating for the release of aging prisoners for several years.

Saldana, who served 38 years behind bars and was granted parole in 2018, hit the ground running, focusing his attention on reaching back to help similarly situated people left behind. RAPP’s efforts include a push to eliminate Life Without Parole (LWOP), which is virtually a death sentence. Many who receive these sort of sentences never see the light of day again on the other side of the fence. Those who are given LWOP, even though not an actual death sentence are still treated as if they have been handed down the death penalty.

The same rings true in other states besides New York, who actually have the death penalty. The death penalty has long been abolished in Michigan since 1847. However, a life sentence basically equates to death by incarceration. Meaning, the Michigan Parole Board’s practice of the ‘Life Means Life’ policy, even if its a parolable life sentence, places all lifers in the same category.

Vermont and Pennsylvania have introduced legislation, that if passed, would abolish Life Without Parole (LWOP) in their states. Criminal Justice Reform advocates like Larry Krasner, Robert Kraft, Michael Rubin, and Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter, all came together and called for the release of Robert Williams a/k/a Rapper Meek Mill.

Meek Mill is now auctioning his beloved Rolls Royce Phantom to provide aid in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, along with other celebrities like Kevin Hart (below).

In 2017, Pennsylvania State Senator Sharif Street introduced Senate Bill 942 aimed to end life without parole sentences in his state. In an article written by Ray Downs on March 26, 2018, Street is quoted as saying, “Not all victims of crime want people to die behind bars.” There are similar sentiments by 80% of crime survivors in Michigan, who believe offenders should have their time reduced, if they were to participate in, and complete mandatory programming, i.e., counseling, vocational, academic, and other requirements which are rehabilitative and helps towards offender success.

Members of RAPP rally against prison death camps.

Michigan needs major reforms to its parole board in how it paroles eligible elderly prisoners, so as to reflect fairness and provide meaningful opportunities for release of the growing aging population in its prisons. The large percentage of aging prisoners is needlessly costing taxpayers millions and millions of dollars annually. Most of the aging prisoners have serious health issues, e.g., cancer, liver damage, heart disease, diabetes, thyroiditis, high blood pressure, and a number of other chronic care illnesses.

What penological interest could there be to continuously hold elderly, sick, infirmed, and dying people in prison, who don’t pose a risk, threat, nor danger to public safety? In fact, the draconian practice of holding reformed, rehabilitated, and redeemed people in our prisons beyond the need is asinine and spells poor logic on the part of corrections officials.

The Michigan Legislature should introduce measures that could bring forth the reforms needed of the current parole process, which is broken and ineffective. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should step in and enact an Executive Order to release aging people in Michigan’s prisons, especially those suffering from the noted health conditions mentioned above. Doing so, could easily free up monies to help “fix the damn roads,” one of Whitmer’s campaign slogans in 2018.

It would also allocate a portion of the wasteful spending in the corrections budget of $2.2 billion towards repairing the rest of the crumbling infrastructure around the state, cleaning up the water systems of PFAS and other life threatening contaminants.

Less than 1% of the group of aging prisoners recidivates. They almost never commit the same crime that landed them in prison decades ago because they have now aged out of crime. Sadly, the majority of lifers in Michigan and across the U.S., are people of color, who’s life expectancy is less than their counterparts. Let’s seriously look at how Michigan can revamp, reform, and rewrite its parole policies and procedures to be more in line with other states that have done so, resulting in the release of aging people from their prison systems.

Since 2009, Michigan has safely paroled some 428 lifers; none have reoffended by committing the same or similar crimea. This aging group of people who are now in their 60s, 70s & 80s, if released, would likely be more concerned with improving their health rather than rushing to indulge in criminality, wouldn’t you think?

Michigan’s vicious sentencing policies have affected 200 juvenile lifers still serving unconstitutional sentences. Below, one, William Garrison, died this week after his re-sentencing. He was awaiting parole in May, after being incarcerated since the age of 16. The prison he was in, Macomb Correctional Facility, has the third highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state and houses many juvenile lifers in its Re-Entry Program.

Michigan Juvenile Lifer Who Died Of Coronavirus In Prison Was Weeks Away From Parole (excerpt)

Angie Jackson, Detroit Free Press

April 18, 2020

William Garrison, in photo taken by sister in 2009 during a visit.

William Garrison was due to come home from prison in early May. After nearly 44 years incarcerated, he would be free from a life sentence handed to him as a juvenile.

His sister Yolanda Peterson had prepared a room for him to stay in her Harper Woods home and planned for his parole agent to come see the place. She was brainstorming how, given the coronavirus pandemic, she might help her brother celebrate his 61st birthday at the end of May.

Plans for the future fell apart Monday, when Peterson got word that her brother, [who had tuberculosis as a baby and had a lung removed] had died unexpectedly in prison.

Garrison’s bunkmate found him gasping for air that evening in their two-man cell at Macomb Correctional Facility, according to Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz. Staff performed CPR. Garrison was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Gautz said.

A postmortem test confirmed that he was positive for COVID-19.

Peterson said it hurts for her brother to die now after “surviving 44 years in prison,” when his freedom was weeks away. “My brother shouldn’t have died in there like that,” she said Friday evening.

Garrison is one of 17 state prisoners who’ve died of COVID-19 as of Friday.

Prisoners at Macomb CF taking “Chance for Life” re-entry program in earlier days. Many juvenile lifers were there awaiting re-sentencing in Macomb’s Re-Entry Program, but Garrison ended up having no “Chance for Life.”

More than 520 prisoners have tested positive, out of the 805 total prisoners tested as of Friday. The Department of Corrections houses roughly 38,000 prisoners. With relatively high infection rates at a handful of facilities including Macomb — where 78 prisoners were confirmed to have COVID-19 as of Friday — experts have said there are likely many more undetected cases throughout the prison system.

More: Infection rate at Michigan prison exceeds New York, Chicago jail hot spots

Life without parole

Garrison was sentenced to automatic life in prison without parole on a conviction of first-degree murder for a shooting when he was 16 in 1976.

Kim Craighead, (3rd from l) with family members, campaigns for freedom for her husband Michael Calvin and his childhood friend Charles Lewis, both juvenile lifers. They were later re-sentenced and freed after spending time at Macomb’s Re-Entry Facility. Each had spent over 41 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Calvin was not the shooter in a group of several adults who killed a man. Lewis had been the subject of numerous stories in VOD demonstrating his innocence.

He had an opportunity to be resentenced after a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision. The court ruled that its 2012 decision that struck down mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder should be applied retroactively.

Garrison had a [re-sentencing] hearing in December, where his attorney Becky Hahn presented evidence that her client had been rehabilitated and was no longer the troubled individual who entered prison as a teenager.

In court,  Garrison said he was illiterate when he entered prison as a teenager, a result of falling behind in school due to years of hospitalization for tuberculosis, Peterson said. He taught himself to read and write. He studied the law and hoped to help other juvenile lifers upon his release.

“He was a zealous advocate for himself and for other incarcerated persons. He often helped other individuals with their legal matters,” Hahn said.

‘Trying to get free’

A judge in January resentenced Garrison to a term of 40 to 90 years. He’d already served 43 years. The parole board approved his release.

But Garrison declined to parole then. He said he’d rather be discharged from prison than paroled because parole would’ve subjected him to the department’s supervision and restrictions.

Garrison didn’t view parole as freedom. “He was trying to get free,” Peterson said.

Though his new maximum sentence was 90 years, Garrison was eligible to be discharged from prison, without parole, in September because he had been awarded more than 7,000 days of “good time” credits, Gautz said.

He initially planned to remain in prison until then, but that changed when COVID-19 made its way into the prison system, Peterson said. Garrison was again considered for parole in late March and was approved, Gautz said.

A prosecutor has 28 days to appeal the board’s decision to grant parole to a prisoner. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, MDOC recently began asking prosecutors to waive that 28-day period to expedite release in some cases.

Wayne Co. Pros. Kym Worthy delays waiver response, which could have saved Garrison’s life

Wayne Co Pros. Kym Worthy

Gautz said the department sent a waiver request for Garrison’s case to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office on April 8 and did not hear back before his death five days later.

Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, confirmed that a letter regarding Garrison’s parole was emailed to Prosecutor Kym Worthy. The window to contest his parole would’ve expired May 6. A decision, which would have involved notifying any victims or family members, had not yet been made, Miller said.

 

Hahn said Garrison’s death is a tragedy.

“I really do think that if he was here, he would want his death to shed light on the dire situation that those others are facing in MDOC,” she said.

Angie Jackson covers the challenges of formerly incarcerated citizens as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, with support from the Hudson-Webber Foundation. Click here to support her work. Contact Angie: ajackson@freepress.com; 313-222-1850. Follow her on Twitter: @AngieJackson23

Below is one of Meek Mill’s many rap songs, which explore the effects of poverty, police killings, the CIA importation of drugs to poor, especially Black communities, and mass incarceration.


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PROTESTERS URGE WHITMER TO RELEASE MICHIGAN INMATES FACING RISK OF CORONAVIRUS IN STATE PRISONS

Car Caravan fills streets outside Michigan Capitol, calls on Gov. Whitmer to release prisoners endangered by COVID-19

Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, MI has over400 cases, higher than Cook County Jail, Rikers Island, USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors

Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, MI

By Malachi Barrett | mbarret1@mlive.com

April 16, 2020

A caravan of protesters circled Michigan’s Capitol for the second day in a row to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, this time calling her to increase protections for incarcerated residents.

Protesters in roughly 50 vehicles organized by prison reform group Nation Outside  (https://www.nationoutside.org/) drove outside the Capitol while leaders of the protest communicated their message to supporters through an online broadcast.

Troy Rienstra, a board member and outreach director for Nation Outside, said the group is asking Whitmer to implement a series of measures to protect staff and prisoners facing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in state prisons. The first Michigan prison inmate died from the coronavirus on April 4, and the state health department since reported 10 inmates and two staff have died and 472 tested positive for the infectious respiratory disease.

End ‘Truth in Sentencing,” release prisoners on good behavior

Demonstrators called on the governor to suspend Michigan’s Truth in Sentencing Law, which requires MDOC inmates to serve their entire minimum sentence before being considered for parole. Suspending the law could release of 3,000 to 5,000 people who demonstrate good behavior, organizers said.

“We want to make sure that people are taken care of and for those that can be released, that the government would do that expeditiously,” Rienstra said. “It’s not only an act of mercy, but it’s an act of wisdom. They can do it today if they wanted to.”

Protesters want emergency commutations, expedited parole process

Protesters also advocated for Whitmer to grant emergency special commutations, waive the two-year requirement between filing for commutation, expedite the parole process and convene a task force to evaluate other emergency measures. Rienstra said he also wants to expand testing of inmates who are reluctant to report their symptoms.

“We want to address the needs and concerns of both sides because only addressing one can drive a wedge between the two,” Rinestra said. “We’re really concerned about the quiet within the population because that is a signal that there’s potential trouble on the rise.”

Prisons and jails across the country have become COVID-19 hotspots, prompting a $2 billion federal program to fund coronavirus testing and early-release efforts in state prisons and county or local jails. Reinstra said the state should prioritize the early release of non-violent offenders who are close to serving their sentences.

Slop for dinner at Kinross Prison; Efren Paredes Jr., who is at Lakeland Correctional Facility, is calling for meals to be delivered to prisoners to stop spread of COVID-19 in prison chow halls.

Coronavirus quarantine areas have been created in each of the state’s 29 prisons, and the department is working to expand testing and provide more protective masks to inmates and prisoners. MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz said the state took action before the first case was confirmed on March 10 by ramping up the production of cleaning supplies and implementing various other measures.

A few examples Gautz highlighted include restricting movement at prisons experiencing an outbreak, reducing the size of educational classes and the number of inmates served meals at one time, restricting group fitness activities and increasing sanitation practices.

To minimize the infection risk inside Michigan jails, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order on March 29 allowing counties greater flexibility to release prisoners early. The order also requires screening of all people arriving or departing at corrections facilities, restricts visitations and suspended transfers into state prisons.

________________________________________________________

Reporter Curt Guyette, with Michigan’s ACLU, interviewed prisoners at Muskegon Correctional Facility, who reported a drastic lack of sufficient soap for hand-washing and other cleaning needs. Story excerpt:

Quentin X Betty, MDOC photo

Despite the desperate need for soap to combat the spread of COVID-19, the MDOC has not increased its weekly ration of two hotel-sized bars, even as the department is urging inmates to wash their hands frequently to protect themselves and others from the virus.

Along with using that soap to hand-wash and shower, some are also using hot soapy water to clean surfaces within their cells. Given all that, those locked up say two small bars do not last much more than a day. Contrary to MDOC policy, when the soap inevitably runs out before the week is up, it is not replaced for free. If individuals have money in their prison account, they can purchase soap from the commissary. Those without money are left to fend for themselves. 

“We are told to frequently wash our hands, and we need to do all the other things we do with it, so when we ask for more soap, no soap is provided,” said Quentin X Betty, who has been housed at Muskegon for just more than a year and serves as the lead representative on the “Warden’s Forum,” a monthly meeting he and others locked up have with the facility’s top officials.

Mr. Betty said the routine has been to receive two rolls of toilet paper and two hotel-sized bars of soap a week. The soap can be used for everything from showering to washing dishes and to cleaning clothes. But soap is definitely running out during this pandemic, he added.

_______________________________________________________

Lansing car caravan demands “Let MI people go”

Reinstra, who served 22 years in jail for an armed robbery conviction before starting a new life as a prison reform activist, expressed optimism that Whitmer and other state officials will be open to the group’s demands. He said activists want to “extend an olive branch” to MDOC officials and start a dialogue with lawmakers.

Ben Roussel, a spokesperson for the event, said organizers wanted to present a stark contrast between their rally and the “Operation Gridlock” rally. Thursday’s event was meant to emulate a funeral procession in observance of inmates who have died, and protesters displayed orange flags with a black cross from their vehicle windows.

Reinstra said protesters were advised to stay in their vehicles and fill their gas tank in their hometown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Protesters didn’t go easy on the governor, claiming her administration has demonstrated “gross neglect of the state’s prison population” in a release. Several vehicles at the protest carried statements like “Gov. Whitmer has power of life and death in her hands,” “prisons are public health disasters” and #LetMIPeopleGo, a social media campaign that spread across Twitter this week.


Demonstrators said incarcerated people are reporting dangerous conditions inside state prisons, including an inability to observe social distancing due to overcrowding, a shortage of cleaning supplies and a failure to quarantine sick inmates.

Gautz said it’s impossible to maintain social distancing in congregate settings 100% of the time, but Whitmer’s orders have ensured prisons aren’t at capacity. He said 700 to 900 inmates are released on parole each month, while no new inmates are coming into state facilities.

“Our prisons are not overcrowded, especially right now,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is also urging Whitmer to release elderly and medically vulnerable people from state prisons. The organization began running television ads in Lansing to spread that message.

“Governor Whitmer knows that reducing the number of people locked behind bars is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19, and she took a bold and necessary step to release vulnerable people in jails,” said Dave Noble, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “But 40,000 people sitting in state prisons, as well as prison staff, their families, and communities, face the same threats, and their lives are just as important. She can save lives by acting now, but these disturbing reports prove that time is running out.”

The ACLU also highlighted the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on African Americans in Michigan, who make up 40% of COVID-19 deaths, but only 14% of the state population. Decades of “unresolved systemic racism” caused people of color to be incarcerated and face a higher risk of infection, the organization said.

#StopCOVIDGenocideinPrisonsandJails, #EndMassIncarceration, #LetMIPeopleGo

Related:

Nation Outside is calling on supporters to sign petition to Gov. Whitmer at  https://actionnetwork.org/letters/demanding-action-now-covid-19-and-michigan-prisons?delivery_id=44376929

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/04/13/wayne-co-jail-residents-say-many-sick-dying-with-covid-19-mdoc-prisoners-say-large-numbers-too/

LIFER EFREN PAREDES, JR. REPORTS ON COVID-19 IN MDOC; PRISONERS IN GRAVE DANGER WORLD-WIDE

More:

MLIVE Michigan inmates hide coronavirus symptoms to avoid prison quarantine

https://www.aclumich.org/en/news/unprotected-prison-pleas-help-inside

 


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WAYNE CO. JAIL RESIDENTS SAY MANY SICK, DYING WITH COVID-19; MDOC PRISONERS SAY LARGE NUMBERS TOO

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#CrimeInTheD

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#StopCOVID19GenocideinPrisons

By Diane Bukowski

April 12, 2020, Updated April 13, 2020

The Old Wayne County Jail (Div. 2). Prisoners are demanding that their time there during the COVID-19 pandemic not become a death penalty.

DETROIT — Angry prisoners in the Wayne County Jail rose up on a prison visitation video April 10 (above). They said despite an official claim that only one prisoner out of 900 in the complex of three prisons has the coronavirus, many are sick and dying from it inside crowded, filthy, unsanitized cells.

“We’re not being tested, we’ve got no masks, everybody uses towels,” they reported. “This is cruel and unusual punishment, and we’re innocent until proven guilty. We’re not going to court appearances and not being allowed to see our attorneys.”

Scattering as a seriously ill prisoner staggered down the hall, coughing into his elbow, they said, “The whole time he’s been sick the medical staff ain’t came yet. We’re in Wayne County Division 2. We on a 10-man rock. We got two people in here sick. They ain’t checking us, not testing nobody. I’ve got asthma and there’s all types of medical problems in here, and they throw us in with sick people.”

At the conclusion of the video, they reported, “This is not a burner phone—this is legal.” The mother of one prisoner confirmed that the video was filmed during an official visit. She said guards have since lodged an assault complaint against her son and thrown him in the hole after isolating him for 72 hours. She says he has not been able to call her since, and neither he nor she has up-to-date information on his upcoming court appearances.

Jail officials have responded with threats instead of human concern for the prisoners, even egged on by reporters claiming the prisoners used a contraband cell phone despite their clear indication to the contrary. See the reports below.

Comparison of medical and N95 masks. Jail officials’ claim that N95 masks, which hospitals can’t even obtain, were passed out to prisoners, is questionable.

One Detroiter who asked not to be identified told VOD that police came to his home March 13 as he was returning with his wife and children from the grocery store, stocking up on food and supplies for the COVID-19 epidemic. They had an arrest warrant for outstanding child support, although county officials were allegedly weeding out people with non-felony cases.

He said they held him through March 21, first at Dickerson, then at the Old Wayne County Jail downtown.

“Detroit is out of their minds,” he said. “They weren’t taking people’s temperatures first at Dickerson, despite all this coronavirus. Detroit called Indiana, where I had another warrant, and took me to the old jail downtown for extradition. They’re not taking people’s temperatures there either or isolating them first for three days like Indiana was doing. At the old jail, they put me up on what they called ‘Quarantine Rock’ but it was not really quarantined. There was a guy there who had it, he was sneezing and coughing, and his eyes were all watery and puffy. There were eight of us, all in one cell.”

He said the jail was full of cockroaches, and the tunnel through which prisoners are taken for their court hearings is full of asbestos, mold, and water leaks.

“They don’t wipe the cells down before they throw you in,” he continued. “They’re not giving inmates gloves and masks, they’re wrong as hell,” he said. “Right now since I got out of jail, my wife won’t let me come home because of the kids. I have to stay somewhere else for 14 days. I can’t go home to my own kids, but I understand.”

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon told the Detroit News April 8, “We’ve released everybody we could possibly release without causing a danger component.” The News reported 430 inmates had been released, leaving only 953, those with felony cases or “thought to pose a threat to public safety.”

Sheriff Benny Napoleon

On the jail’s website, Napoleon’s claims are diametrically opposed to those of the prisoners.

“We have taken every step feasible to ensure that employees are protected to the greatest extent possible,” Napoleon says. “Every officer has been issued gloves, n95 masks, face shields, sanitizer wipes, hand sanitizer, Clorox and Lysol spray. Additionally, there are a select number of disposable hazmat suits available. Each of our jail divisions have been sanitized and we have restricted entry into the jails to inmates, employees and attorneys. All employees were offered testing over an eight (8) day period. Upon entry to the jails, everyone is required to have their temperature taken.  Surgical masks have been distributed to inmates.”

Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy listening to top advisors.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement March 20, “We are clearly aware that the safety of the public is also paramount. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic we have been working on the issue of administrative release of prisoners non-stop. There are many stakeholders that must be consulted – the Courts, the Sheriff’s Department, the Health Department, Prosecutors Office, a representative of the prisoners and their attorneys from Michigan Legal Services, jail personnel, medical personnel, and others. There are currently just under 100 people that have now been identified for Administrative Release.”

She also said that all prisoners with underlying health conditions were being identified, and assessed for release to facilities that could care for them.

Officials for the Michigan Department of Corrections have also said that before any prisoner is released there, he/she must go through a similarly lengthy and involved assessment. Their families say they hope their loved ones won’t die in the meantime.

MDOC spokesperson Chris Gautz says outright in the video below that the MDOC will not release prisoners accused of murder, rape or other assaultive crimes.

In 1978, Michigan abolished “good time” credits for prisoners, drastically increasing the total population in the prisoners. Good time was earned through positive behavior in prison and evidence of rehabilitation.

A large percentage of MDOC’s 37,000 prisoners have long passed their earliest parole release date. However, it is common practice for the parole board to keep them based solely on their original offense, not their progress in prison, according to a 2015 report from the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (Mi-CAPPS).

“Michigan’s prisoner population has grown from fewer than 7,900 in 1973 to over 43,000,” says the CAPPS report. “Corrections has gone from 1.6 percent of General Fund spending to nearly 20 percent. Today the budget of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) is roughly $2 billion.

The report says later, “. . . The Pew Center on the States found that in 2009, Michigan had the longest average length of stay of 35 states studied. Overall, Michigan prisoners served nearly 17 months more than the average. Assaultive offenders served 30 months longer than assaultive offenders nationally. Michigan’s 20-year rate of increase in length of stay far exceeded the growth rate of other states. Researchers can make no connection between increased length of stay and recidivism.”

Meanwhile, several prisoners have provided their own reports on the growth of the COVID-19 surge in Michigan prisons.

VOD staff writer Ricardo Ferrell

Ricardo Ferrell reported from Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian that 50 prisoners had been transferred there after they tested positive for COVID-19, and placed in a separate building. However, shortly afterwards two prisoners in housed in 4-6 men “cubes” suddenly came down with high fevers and tested positive for COVID. All the occupants of their units were quarantined in segregation. Others have reported that regular transfers from other prisons continue, followed by upspikes in positive COVID cases.

Ferrell sent a copy of an official update given to prisoners by the administration on numbers of COVID cases and deaths throughout MDOC. The report was clearly skewed. It said only 9 cases had been reported at Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, MI, contradicted by the report from Channel 7 above on 100 prisoners testing positive at Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, MI.

MICHIGAN PRISONS LACK STRATEGY IN COVID-19 BATTLE; PANDEMIC NUMBERS MUCH LARGER THAN REPORTED

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.
http://Bitly.com/FreeEfren

April 12, 2020

Efren Paredes, Jr.

Over the weekend during a 24-hour period ambulances visited the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) twelve times to transport people housed at the prison to the hospital who exhibited advanced symptoms of COVID-19.

During the past week dozens of incarcerated people have tested positive for the disease. An even larger number of prisoners have sought medical care for COVID-19 symptoms and been turned away by Health Care staff who have been overwhelmed by requests for help.

According to reports from several people housed in the four pole barn open dorm housing units, many people housed there are experiencing the inability to smell or taste — early symptoms of COVID-19 infiltrate.

They state that when complaining about symptoms of the disease, even if they are experiencing multiple symptoms, unless they have a fever or can’t breathe Health Care staff will not provide them assistance or a COVID-19 test.

Medical assistance, COVID tests repeatedly denied to syptomatic prisoners; quarantined prisoners back in chow hall with hundreds of others

There have been reports about an incarcerated person exhibiting a dry cough, dizziness, and vomiting that was returned to his housing unit after being evaluated by Health Care staff. Another person was repeatedly denied medical assistance until defecating on himself.

Another widespread problem related to Health Care has been with follow-up care they have provided people in 14-day quarantine status who were in close contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19.

Prisoners in Lakeland Correctional Facility yard.

Health Care staff is supposed to check their vitals twice a day for two weeks while they remain in quarantine status, but they have only been doing it for a few days and stopping — buckling from being overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 cases.

According to one incarcerated person a nurse told him, “I have to check vitals 200 times a day on my shift. We can’t keep this up anymore. If you have any symptoms just let us know.” It was the last time his vitals were checked.

People being quarantined were also supposed to have packaged meals delivered to their housing unit so they didn’t go to the dining hall and have contact with hundreds of other people. That, too, was short lived.

After complaints from Food Service staff that it was costing too much to package the food they stopped sending the meals and the quarantined people resumed eating with everyone else in the dining hall, potentially exposing them to COVID-19 if they are infected with it.

These actions have cratered what little remaining confidence many incarcerated people had in the ability of Health Care Services to help them. It has also reinforced their long held beliefs about the inadequate and substandard care they have been subjected to for many years.

Rising tension and frustration among prisoners

The rising tension and frustration is palpable in areas of the prison where large numbers of people are feeling that their health and safety is being ignored, and anecdotally the COVID-19 viral load appears to be silently stalking everyone in its path.

Morale is at an all time low and people are expressing a deep sense of distress and despair, particularly elderly people and those afflicted with morbidities which make them highly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Graduating class of MDOC prisoners. MDOC had recently begun allowing college classes again,

While the prison has suspended all educational classes, religious services, and law library sessions to avoid the danger of people being in close contact, it continues maximizing the gathering of people in the largest available space at the prison (i.e., the dining hall).

The prison remains resistant to providing packaged meals to people rather than feeding them in the crowded dining hall in close proximity to one another, making the cost of meal packaging a priority over saving lives.

Nearly 70 prisoners, 18 staff at LCF have tested positive; 2 prisoners have died during past eight days; only the tip of the iceberg

This brings us to the latest data. LCF now has nearly 70 prisoners and 18 staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19. Two incarcerated people have also died of the disease at the prison during the past eight days.

With potentially hundreds of people at the prison infected with COVID-19 the number of people being hospitalized for urgent care is expected to continue surging. So is the number of people who succumb to COVID-19.

There is a need for widespread testing at the prison if the MDOC has any intention to curb the spread of the disease. Sitting idly by as it ravages the prison daily or hoping it will eventually stop is not a strategy.

Experts have been clamoring for weeks about the importance of COVID-19 case identification, isolation, and testing regimes in areas where there are outbreaks. They have also stressed the need for contact tracing. Where these things are ignored or haphazardly utilized the results have proven fatal.

The MDOC is woefully failing in each of these areas. It is waiting far too long to quarantine people who are presenting COVID-19 symptoms and reserving testing only for cases that nearly require hospitalization.

This practice is allowing many potentially infected people to roam freely throughout prisons spreading infection to other prisoners and staff, and creating pockets of pathology. Unlike in society where infected people can self-isolate, incarcerated people don’t have that option.

Over 400 incarcerated people have tested positive for COVID-19 in prisons across the state and ten of them have died. The number of infected people doubled in just one week.

According to researchers, a single infected person with the disease can infect up to forty other people. If even half that number is true there will be thousands of COVID-19 cases propagated throughout Michigan prisons if mitigation and containment efforts do not rapidly improve.

This moment must be met with a real strategy and courageous, principled leadership if lives are to be saved.

(Efrén Paredes, Jr. is currently incarcerated at the Lakeland Correctional Facility. He is a blogger, thought leader, and social justice changemaker. His ongoing series about the COVID-19 crisis in Michigan prisons can be read at http://fb.com/Free.Efren.)

Related:

See Mi-CAPPS report at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Executive_summary_10000_fewer_prisoners.pdf.

Activists including ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, others demand release of prisoners at high risk for COVID-10: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-19/la-na-coronavirus-prisons-safety

Sign petition to bring back Good Time for Michigan prisoners:

https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/bring-back-good-time-in-michigan-s-prisons-hb-5666

“Correctional Facilities In The Shadow Of COVID-19: Unique Challenges And Proposed Solutions, ” Health Affairs Blog, March 26, 2020. at

https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20200324.784502/full/


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RESISTANCE GROWS TO COVID-CAPITALISM; JACKSON, MS CALLS FOR GEN’L STRIKE MAY 1: BLACK AGENDA REPORT

“We have to ensure that we never return to the society that enabled this pandemic to emerge.”

 Glen Ford, BAR Executive Editor

April 9, 2020 

Covid-19 has laid bare a fundamental truth: that capitalist healthcare is a contradiction in terms, since capital – like the killer virus — cares for nothing but reproducing itself.

What some may remember as the Year of the Lost Spring – lost loved ones, lost jobs, lost freedom of movement – may also become the year that the oligarchy and its servants in both corporate parties lost popular permission to dictate the terms of life and death in the United States.

For the second time this century, the economies of the U.S. and Europe are circling the abyss, dragging much of the rest of the planet with them, while China, site of the first large eruption of Covid-19, leads the world in both economic resilience and global mutual aid — and Cuba has stepped forward once again as the champion of medical solidarity.

The superpower that has killed millions in its quest for global supremacy has utterly failed the most basic test of legitimacy at home: the ability to protect its own population. COVID-19 has laid bare a fundamental truth: that capitalist healthcare is a contradiction in terms, since capital – like the killer virus — cares for nothing but reproducing itself.

“The Lords of Capital have been devouring the nation’s protective membrane, leaving the population defenseless against, not only microbes, but every disease of the poor.”

Mike Duggan celebrates sale of DMC to Vanguard Aug. 5, 2013. It is now owned by Tenet Capital. Hundreds of workers have been laid off, services cut back. VOD photo

Above: ER nurses at the Detroit Medical Center’s Sinai-Grace Hospital conduct sit-down protest about COVID-19 conditions, get fired April 5, 2020. While CEO of the DMC, Mike Duggan (now Mayor of Detroit) sold the ‘non-profit’ to two private, for-profit companies run by New York-based hedge funds.

The U.S. “public” health sector is revealed as a hollowed-out shell, crippled and shrunken by decades of unrelenting privatization at the hands of the oligarch-serving political duopoly. In effect, the Lords of Capital have been devouring the nation’s protective membrane, leaving the population defenseless against, not only microbes, but every disease of the poor — plus opiates and the lethal social pathologies that spawn spectacular and uniquely American mass shootings at schools, churches and shopping malls, and the daily slaughter of Black and brown youth on the streets.

The idiot currently occupying the White House did not create the healthcare crisis, and the people know it. Donald Trump is far too incompetent and unfocused to pull off such a monumental crime, which has been unfolding for decades.

“Democrats have been full partners in stripping the people of public health protections.”

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo

Democrats have been full partners in stripping the people of public health protections – including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the current darling of corporate media, who continues to press for $2.5 billion in Medicaid cuts  in his own state even as he poses as the nation’s top virus-slayer. Joe Biden, the not-all-there man who some would like Cuomo to replace as the Democratic presidential nominee, vows to veto Medicare for All  – the first, preliminary step towards a real national health care system — if it ever comes across his White House desk.

Politicians of both parties take their orders from the Lords of Capital. Otherwise, they are demonized and threatened with expulsion from the capitalist duopoly, the only electoral game that is allowed under oligarchic rule – which is why Bernie Sanders will always be a loyal sheep-dog for a party that opposes his old-style Democratic reforms.

New York City is at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.

In the big cities, it is almost invariably the Democrats that enforce Rich Man’s Rule – many of them Black Democrats, since the other half of the duopoly is the White Man’s Party (GOP). Big labor’s only duopoly option is also the Democrats, a straight-jacket that union hacks have no desire to escape, preferring concubinage (whoring) to conflict with the ruling capitalist class.

The unions that purport to fight for the workers, and Blacks, who are overwhelmingly working class and the most left-leaning ethnicity in the nation, have both been reduced by the duopoly to annexes of the Democratic Party, a fatal embrace. The duopoly serves only one master: Capital. Back when the Democrats were the White Man’s Party and an aging Frederick Douglass made his living as a Republican functionary, the former firebrand declared , “The Republican Party is the ship and all else is the sea around us.”

Just as Douglass’ Republicans eventually sanctioned Jim Crow and the dictatorship of Capital, the Democrats have become bulwarks of an austerity Race to the Bottom that has thrown the working class and its most marginalized components overboard to drown in a sea of declining living standards and disappearing “real” jobs and social supports – and without a national health care system.

Covid-19 has made clear the lunacy of this deal with the devil, and that “nobody will save us, but us.”

COOPERATION JACKSON ISSUES CALL FOR GENERAL STRIKE MAY 1

Cooperation Jackson, the Mississippi-based  “emerging vehicle for sustainable community development, economic democracy, and community ownership,” last week put out a call for a general strike to begin on May 1st — May Day — and a list of demands “that will transform our broken and inequitable society, and build a new society run by and for us – the working-class, poor, oppressed majority.” (See BAR, April 6, 2020.)

See https://cooperationjackson.org/

“Despite the asymmetry of power between ourselves on the Left and the organized working-class, and the forces of the right,” says the Call, “we have to do everything we can to intervene. We must stop the worst most deadly version of this pandemic from becoming a reality, and we have to ensure that we never return to the society that enabled this pandemic to emerge and have the impact it is having in the first place. We must do everything that we can to create a new, just, equitable and ecologically regenerative economy.”

Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson

The proposed demands include protection of front-line workers exposed to the virus, and of “other vulnerable communities, including the homeless, migrants, and refugees from discrimination and attack in this time of crisis”; democratization of the means of production, by converting corporations into cooperatives; universal healthcare and basic services (education, childcare, elderly care, water, electricity, internet, etc.); a universal basic income; democratized credit (“Bail out the people, not the corporations and Wall Street”); a “decarbonized economy and Green New Deal; housing as a human right; clean and decommodified water for all; a Debt Jubilee; release of prisoners and closure of jails and prisons; closure of detention centers and reunification of families; shutdown of overseas military bases and cuts in the military budget, with spending transferred to social needs and infrastructure.

Cooperation Jackson spokesman Kali Akuno said nearly 300 activists took part in a conference call on Monday and reached “consensus on doing collective action to support what’s already going on.” Committees were formed to launch and sustain the strike and to put together a national strike fund.

“We’re trying to answer questions of the last 30 years in a few days,” said Akuno. May Day is important, “but we have no illusion that the ‘big one’ will happen on May 1st,” with the epidemic raging and much of the population still on lockdown, “but we’ll keep working towards it to send a clear message that we need a new system.”

The resistance predates Cooperation Jackson’s call. Dr. Abdul Alkalimat, professor of African American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, compiled and circulated a list of grassroots labor and social activist actions in the time of plague across the nation and the world [VOD-list is at bottom of this story.]

Lockdown and Beyond

 

http://blackisbackcoalition.org/the-covid-19-pandemic-black-people-fight-back-webinar-april-11-12/

As long as the lockdown continues, activists will have to find novel uses for technology. The Black Is Back Coalition  had planned to hold its annual Electoral School gathering in St. Louis this weekend, April 11 and 12, but will instead conduct the event over the internet. The theme has been changed to “Covid-19 Pandemic: Black People Fight Back ,” with an emphasis on “sellout Negroes in the time of plague,” said coalition chairman Omali Yeshitela.

That’s an apt description of the battle ahead of us. The Democratic Party has for the last four years blamed all of the ills of capitalism — and their own crimes — on the singularly loathsome person of Donald Trump and his imaginary partners in Moscow. Trump has, in effect, been their shield, diverting attention from Democratic complicity in the Race to the Bottom – which is why Hillary Clinton wanted him to be the Republican nominee, and why the Democrats insist he is the only issue in 2020.

Protest at Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit against 2014 bankruptcy takeover of city.

If Trump is the root of all evil, then all that needs to be done is to replace him with a Democrat – leaving intact the system created by both parties at the behest of the ruling class.

But the Covid-19 epidemic would have wrought mass death and economic havoc in the United States no matter which half of the corporate duopoly was in charge,  because both corporate parties have been eagerly dismantling and privatizing the public health sector for two generations. The Covid-19 bailout of banks and corporations under Trump is modeled on the bank and corporate bailout under Obama more than a decade ago. Neither scheme saved anybody but the financial and corporate elite. The First Black President and the Thoroughly Racist President both serve the same masters.

“The Covid-19 epidemic would have wrought mass death and economic havoc in the United States no matter which half of the corporate duopoly was in charge.”

Through its abject obedience to the Democratic Party, the Black Misleadership Class acts as mercenaries for the same oligarchy. They are welcomed into the subservient fold because the Lords of Capital have no problem with ethnic and religious “diversity” in the lower ranks of the power structure (mayors, a few corporate executives, even a compliant Black president), as long as society is structured according to the needs of Capital. Black politics will have to be transformed – not just independent of the Democratic Party, but relentlessly opposed to it – or there is no chance of lifting Black America from the bottom of the racial barrel, much less eliminating the racial hierarchy, altogether.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders agreed on U.S. war agenda in Syria, Middle East, Latin America

Bernie Sanders’ final surrender  to the will of his half of the corporate duopoly, was anticlimax. Covid-19 will swell the ranks of dissidents in the party and nation, and Sanders’ concession will remove false hope that a corporate party can fight corporate rule. Sanders played a key role in popularizing the term “socialism,” but also in sanitizing it as compatible with existing power structures. Jeff Bezos and the rest of the obscenely rich are just as deadly if they are more heavily taxed, as they are when they keep most of their money.

A real left must fight for real socialism if the real world is to be saved from the greatest threat to life on Earth: the capitalist ruling classes of the United States and Europe, the historical and unrepentant enslavers of humanity and ravagers of the planet. Real socialism kicks the oligarchy off the commanding heights of the economy so they can no longer inflict unending austerity, war and warming on the planet while the people remain unprotected from the periodic visitation of deadly microbes. It must be a socialism that respects and facilitates the self-determination of Black people and all other oppressed nationalities that demand it – which is the only way that socialism can work in a racist society.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com .

COMMENTS?

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Or, you can comment by emailing us at comments@blackagendareport.com

WORLD-WIDE FORCES FIGHTING THE CAPITALIST-COVID EPIDEMIC

New Orleans https://vimeo.com/404840708

Workers beginning to revolt https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/z3b9ny/coronavirus-general-strike https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/04/03/strike-your-life https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-coronavirus-worker-revolt-is-just-beginning_n_5e84e57bc5b60bbd734e3fa0 https://www.bloombergquint.com/businessweek/coronavirus-marks-the-best-and-worst-time-for-workers-to-strike https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/the-coronavirus-may-be-a-tipping-point-for-labor.html

Amazon warehouse workers https://chicago.suntimes.com/coronavirus/2020/4/6/21203949/amazon-little-village-dch1-coronavirus-covid-19-christian-zamarron-domonic-wilkerson https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/30/21199942/amazon-warehouse-coronavirus-covid-new-york-protest-walkout https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/1/21202745/amazon-coronavirus-walk-out-detroit-protests-warehouse-cleaning https://fortune.com/2020/03/30/amazon-workers-new-york-warehouse-strike-coronavirus-safety-fears/

GE workers https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/30/ge-workers-plan-to-protest-at-two-facilities-after-coronavirus-layoffs.html

Uber and Lyft drivers https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/19/uber-lyft-coronavirus-benefits-ab5

Wholefoods https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2020/03/31/coronavirus-workplace-conditions-spur-protests-whole-foods-amazon/5093570002/

Nurses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMrBHRFWV2c https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdQQdna0P9s https://www.newsweek.com/nurses-protest-coronavirus-california-cdc-1491873 https://www.bridgemi.com/michigan-health-watch/nurses-say-detroit-hospital-told-them-leave-after-coronavirus-protest

ICE detainees https://theintercept.com/2020/03/30/coronavirus-ice-detention/

Grocery store workers https://www.nbcboston.com/news/local/grocery-store-workers-to-protest-in-boston-demanding-adequate-protections-amid-pandemic/2103707/ https://www.inquirer.com/jobs/labor/coronavirus-philadelphia-grocery-workers-moms-organic-market-protest-20200406.html

McDonald’s in LA https://la.eater.com/2020/4/6/21210092/mcdonalds-walkout-protest-south-la-crenshaw-coronavirus-covid-19-los-angeles

Local officials in Georgia https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/stupid-and-crazy-local-officials-protest-gov-kemps-decision-to-reopen-beaches-in-hard-hit-georgia/ar-BB12dsxn

Brazil https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-51955679

Ivory Coast https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-52189144

Pakistan https://globalnews.ca/news/6787520/coronavirus-pakistan-iran-protest/

Global https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/04/06/work-a06.html https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-fears-spark-prison-unrest-worldwide.html

Palestinians https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/coronavirus-protest-jaffa-covid-19-restrictions-police-brutality

Kenya https://nypost.com/2020/03/27/some-kenyan-nurses-refusing-coronavirus-patients-in-protest-over-gear-shortages/

Italy https://www.foxnews.com/world/italian-inmates-die-during-protest-over-coronavirus-measures https://www.dw.com/en/italian-workers-protest-against-open-factories-as-covid-19-spreads/a-52921359

Germany https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/23520/germany-asylum-seekers-protest-against-virus-quarantine


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