ST. LOUIS, Mich. (WLNS)– A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections confirmed with 6 News Monday evening that nearly two-thirds of inmates at the Central Michigan Correctional Facility currently have COVID-19.
Of the 2,300 prisoners at the facility, there are 1,444 active positive cases as of Nov. 23. There are also 149 current positive cases among staff.
Devon Glenn Jr. is currently in prison at the Central Michigan facility and asked his brother to share a message with the public about his concerns. Glenn wrote that many inmates are afraid to speak up for fear of consequences, but chose to share his message anyways in hopes of getting help.
“I don’t know who to turn to for help, so I’m begging the community to just hear me out,” Glenn began in an audio recording sent to 6 News. He went on to say, “I’m pleading to the world to understand that yes, I am a convicted felon and I want to do my time, but like so many others I do not want to die.”
Glenn wrote that the mass spread of the virus “can only be explained by the negligence of the MDOC administration, placing not only the lives of inmates in danger but the lives of MDOC staff and their families as well.”
MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz said the department has been proactive.
“Even before there were cases in Michigan or even cases in our prison system we were doing everything we could to start the preparation,” he said.
Gautz said those measures include providing personal protective equipment, increasing soap production and availability for inmates, cleaning daily with bleach, and giving out free masks to prisoners and staff and requiring they wear them at all times.
“When other states have looked to enact policies to protect prisoners and protect staff in their states, several states have come to us and looked to mimic what we’ve done because we’ve been so at the forefront of trying to do everything we can and that’s only possible by the great work of our staff,” Gautz said.
He added that the warden and his team have been open and transparent with the prisoners, walking around and informing them of what’s going on. In addition, the facility groups prisoners based on their health status.
“Once prisoners test positive, they’re moved into a housing unit with only other positives,” Gautz said.
The Central Michigan facility has a total of 16 units with approximately 160 prisoners in each. According to Gautz, 10 of those units are currently being used for Covid positive inmates. Testing is done weekly for every prisoner and employee.
Glenn wants to know, if the facility is taking all these precautions, why is there such a high case count?
“It just speaks to how contagious and how infectious this virus can be and how quickly it can spread when you live and work in a congregate setting,” Gautz said.
He added that only two of the prisoners with the virus are currently hospitalized and so far, there haven’t been any COVID-19 related deaths at that specific facility. As for Glenn, he said the uncertainty is worse than anything.
“Having to wake up every day, talk to my daughters, my sister, my family in general knowing that if I catch this virus it could be our last conversation, is cruel and more punishment than any court intended,” he said.
Approximately 3 percent of Michigan’s general population currently has COVID-19, but nearly 14 percent of prisoners in MDOC facilities have the virus. A total of 77 coronavirus related deaths have been reported to date withing the department.
If you have questions about a friend or family member who is currently in an MDOC facility, more information can be found here.