“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and the most inhuman.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March 25, 1966
Sign Voice of Detroit’s petition to Gov. Whitmer at:
ACLU to Gov. Whitmer, MDHHS Director Gordon: “A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care. . . .has no place in civilized society.”
State’s failure to prioritize Michigan prisoners for COVID-19 vaccines violates 8th Amendment
Other states including Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico and Pennsylvania prioritize prisoners
Michigan prisons have second highest number of COVID-19 cases, third highest number of deaths in the country
January 16, 2021
Editor: We are very heartened to see that a coalition of human rights groups formed by the Michigan ACLU called on Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon on Jan. 13 to prioritize people in prisons and jails for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, in tier one.
VOD began a petition asking the same officials to do so on December 18, 2020 and calls on readers to continue to sign it while state officials respond to the ACLU letter. Sign at https://www.change.org/COVID-19VaccinesforMichiganPrisoners.
We are hearing many frantic and heartbreaking accounts from state prisoners with COVID-19 and about those who have died from the unchecked spread of this pandemic in the Michigan Department of Corrections. One hundred twenty-five (125) prisoners have now died, while nearly 60 percent of all MDOC prisoners, 23,400, have tested positive since the pandemic began, according to MDOC figures.
THE MICHIGAN CONSTITUTION HAS OUTLAWED THE DEATH PENALTY SINCE 1847, the first state to do so. No prisoner has been sentenced to death!
Carl Hubbard just returned to the Carson City Correctional Facility after weeks of hospitalization outside the walls. He is suffering severe and likely permanent damage to his entire body including his lungs, heart, and circulatory system. He is in imminent danger of death. But he has been placed once again in an all COVID-19 unit.
Prior to his hospitalizations, he told VOD: “I have been very sick with this COVID-19. They tested me eight times and the last time it came back positive after Thanksgiving. I have been sick ever since, lost all my taste and smell, and am having chest pains. There have been least three deaths here. I’m in the COVID unit 900 where everybody has COVID. But there is really no treatment going on here because an officer infected everybody here. There are 240 prisoners with COVID in the unit, and in the whole compound, 2100 prisoners and at least 100 C.O.’s with it as well.”
As of Jan. 11, 2021, 2101 of 2,514 prisoners at Carson City have tested positive for the virus; 1,629 cases (65 percent of the total CCF population), are currently active. Six CCF prisoners have died.
Hubbard was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated in 1992, based solely on one man’s coerced testimony. Prosecutors had the man arrested for alleged “perjury” as he left the stand on the second day of the trial after recanting, but he has done so repeatedly since. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office continues to oppose all Hubbard’s appeals.
Thelonious Searcy, Ricky Rimmer-Bey, and Darrell Ewing also have strong cases for exoneration. They have each suffered severely from COVID-19 and are fighting not only for freedom, but their very lives.
Searcy has a Court of Appeals hearing Feb. 4 on a Michigan Supreme Court remand of his innocence case ordering the COA t0 address factual issues including the testimony of hitman Vincent Smothers that he committed the crime for which Searcy was charged. Ewing is waiting to see whether Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy will appeal his case further after eight judges ordered a new trial over the last three years. Rimmer-Bey, who is 67 and has been incarcerated since 1975, has a motion pending in trial court for emergency re-sentencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its particular effect on him. Will they survive long enough?
Some experts estimate that at least 30 percent of MDOC prisoners are innocent. There are tens of thousands of others sentenced to terms of 20 years up to life (a/k/a death by incarceration), These sentences are considered cruel and unusual in most of the rest of the civilized world, where a term of 15 years upon review is generally the most severe penalty for any crime. Why should any human being incarcerated in Michigan have to fear a horrible death from COVID-19 as well?
Release: ACLU Coalition Letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, MDHHS Dir. Robert Gordon, Jan. 13, 2021
(Full letter at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Civil-Rights-Coalition-Urges-Gov.-Gretchen-Whitmer-and-Michigan-Health-Department-to-Prioritize-Vaccinating-People-who-are-Incarcerated-_-ACLU-of-Michigan2.pdf.)
DETROIT – Today a coalition of civil rights organizations sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, urging the state to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for people who live in correctional facilities statewide, just as the state has prioritized vaccinations for people who work in these facilities and people who live in other congregate settings.
The coalition sent the letter after previously raising these points prior to the updated release of guidelines as part of an ongoing effort to persuade the Governor and MDHHS to treat everyone in congregate living situations equally, because:
- The average rate of COVID-19 cases among people incarcerated statewide is 983% higher than Michigan’s overall rate, and the mortality rate is 133% higher than Michigan overall.
- In Michigan prisons, there have been at least 22,629 cases of COVID-19, the third-highest rate in the country, and at least 121 deaths, the second-highest rate in the country.
- Statewide, more than 2,000 people incarcerated have been infected, and 20 people incarcerated have died of COVID-19, in the last month alone.
“Prioritizing who in Michigan gets the COVID-19 vaccine and when they get it must be guided by public health policies,” said Syeda Davidson, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney.
“Failing to prioritize people living in jails and prisons defies the recommendations of experts in this field, who recognize that vaccinating this highly vulnerable population as soon as possible is critical to protecting public health. This virus is infecting and killing people who are incarcerated at alarmingly high rates as compared to the general public, and the only way to stop it is to prioritize vaccinations for people in prisons and jails.”
While the MDHHS guidance prioritizes people who live in other congregate living settings, like adult foster care homes and psychiatric facilities, as well as staff for correctional facilities, the guidance excludes people living in correctional facilities from any level of prioritization.
The letter also addresses the racial implications of excluding people who are incarcerated from being prioritized to receive the vaccine. Gov. Whitmer recognized through executive directive last year that racism is a public health crisis, and that this pandemic exacerbates the inequities caused by systemic racism.
“Both the offices of Governor Whitmer and MDHHS have consistently and rightfully followed public health experts’ guidelines while addressing this pandemic – including the recognition that this deadly virus is disproportionately ravishing the Black community,” said
Jonathan Sacks, State Appellate Defender Office director.
“Leaving people in jails and prisons out of the state’s vaccine priority plan is contributing to the systemic racism Governor Whitmer and her administration has been fighting so hard to dismantle. Prioritizing people incarcerated is critical in fighting systemic racism in Michigan.”
COVID-19 is infecting Black Michigan residents more than three times the rate of white Michigan residents, and the Black death rate is more than four times higher than whites. Black people are also over-incarcerated compared to white people. While the Black population is 14 percent in Michigan, they are 49 percent of the Michigan’s jail and prison population.
[The Marshall Project reports, “Black prisoners in Michigan have accounted for 49 percent of positive COVID tests, at the same time black residents received 31 percent of positive tests in the state as a whole.]
“This unprecedented, deadly pandemic is disproportionately infecting and killing incarcerated people and Black Michiganders,” said Amanda Alexander, Detroit Justice Center founder and executive director. “It is not only humane, but necessary, to prioritize vaccinating individuals who are behind bars just as every other person the state is prioritizing.”
In addition to the ACLU, the State Appellate Defender Office, and the Detroit Justice Center, the letter was signed by Safe & Just Michigan, Michigan Liberation, the Michigan Center for Youth Justice, the American Friends Service Committee, the Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit, and the Michigan League for Public Policy.
Related from Detroit News:
Related from Detroit Free Press:
Related from VOD:
Related from other media:
Voice of Detroit is a pro bono newspaper. VOD’s editors and reporters, most of whom live on fixed incomes or are incarcerated, are not paid for their work. Ongoing costs include quarterly web charges of $380, P.O. box fee of $150/yr. and costs for research including court records, and internet fees, as well as office supplies, gas, etc.
Please if you can
DONATE TO VOD at