2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response Q&A
The Michigan Department of Corrections is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of staff, the public and those under our supervision. The following information will help address many commonly-asked questions regarding the MDOC’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and preventative steps we’re taking to help protect the health of employees, prisoners and those in the community. Updates and information regarding the MDOC and the current COVID-19 situation can be found at MDOC response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and preventative measures.
1. Is the MDOC allowing visitors at this time?
No, the Michigan Department of Corrections has ceased all in-person visiting of prisoners effective March 13. This also includes outside volunteers and other tours and groups who routinely come into the prisons. UPDATE: October 9, 2020 The department is moving forward with plans to pilot video visitation at seven correctional facilities statewide. Click here for more information.
2. Does this include visits to my local county jail?
The Michigan Department of Corrections does not operate or have jurisdiction over county jails. Please contact your local county or sheriff’s office for information on county jails.
3. Will COVID-19 disrupt or delay the transfer of inmates between facilities?
During this time, transfers between facilities will not be authorized without the approval of the Assistant Deputy Director or higher.
4. Will the MDOC continue to process paroles and release prisoners as scheduled?
The MDOC continues to process paroles and release prisoners as scheduled at this time.
5. Is the Parole Board still having public hearings?
The Parole Board has started to schedule public hearings, which will be held remotely, while ensuring those who need it have access. Links to these public hearings and information on when they are taking place are being provided on our website here.
6. Is the parole board still having parole interviews?
The parole board will continue to conduct parole interviews via video conference as scheduled at this time.
7. Can representatives still attend parole board interviews?
UPDATE: As of March 31, 2020, we are no longer allowing parole representatives to come into the prison for interviews. Please contact the facility the prisoner is housed at to see about options to phone in.
8. Are attorney visits allowed?
Yes, attorney visits will continue at this time. All are subject to the same screening as facility staff.
9. Since we can’t see our loved ones is the department offering enhanced communication services?
During this time when visits are suspended, we have worked with GTL and JPay to provide enhanced services for you to communicate with your family and friends. Detailed information from those companies is being relayed to the prisoner population. JPay is continuing to offer two free stamps per week through February 28, 2021. GTL’s internet and mobile fees are reduced with the regular $2.95 transaction fee reduced to $1.95 and the $1.95 transaction fee reduced to $0.95.
10. Do you know when the visitation suspension will be lifted?
Not at this time. The department will monitor the situation to determine when visits will be restored. UPDATE: October 9, 2020 The department is moving forward with plans to pilot video visitation at seven correctional facilities statewide. Click here for more information.
11. Are deliveries of food and cleaning supplies still being accepted at the facilities? People are worried there is a shortage of food or sanitation supplies.
Yes. Deliveries continue as scheduled. The MDOC currently has adequate supplies of food and sanitation items and is monitoring supply levels continually.
12. Will inmates still get their SecurePak orders?
Yes. SecurePak is on schedule.
13. Is MDOC handing out bars of soap? What precautions is MDOC implementing regarding inmates washing their hands longer?
All prisoners have access to soap. We have increased soap in bathrooms as well as have directed MSI to increase production. Soap has been distributed to prisoners and the prisoners have been told that if they need more soap they only need to ask. Additional soap will be provided at no charge. CDC posters detailing proper hygiene practices have been posted in the prisoners and have also been recreated digitally so they play on tv screens throughout our facilities. These are the same posters you will see in your community and throughout State of Michigan office buildings.
14. What is the department doing to encourage social distancing in the facilities?
The department continues to urge prisoners not to gather in unnecessary small or large groups and to practice social distancing when possible. We are running smaller groups, such as programs and classrooms, and we have limited the number of people going to the chow hall at any one time so we can seat prisoners further apart.
15. Are prisoners being tested for COVID-19?
Yes. The MDOC began with a system of symptomatic testing, where a prisoner with just one symptom met the criteria for a test and would be tested. The department also started a system of mass testing that began at Lakeland and G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facilities in April and then partnered with the Michigan National Guard to conduct department-wide testing for COVID-19 at all facilities in the state. Now that the department-wide testing is complete, ongoing testing continues for both prisoners and employees. Prisoners are tested whenever they are transferred, paroled, scheduled to go off-site for appointments, or housed in a location where the department sees an increase in positive cases. Facility wide testing is done at these locations and free testing is offered to employees.
16. Do you have tests on site?
The department has secured testing kits so the prison population who meet the criteria can be tested quickly.
17. Do prisoners have to pay to get tested?
Co-pays will be waived for any prisoner being tested for COVID-19.
18. Are prisoners still receiving regular health care, dental care, and medications?
Consistent with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020–17, the MDOC previously postponed all non-urgent and emergent healthcare visits. To be clear, if a prisoner was sick, they were still seen. Appointments for chronic care cases and med lines continued to operate and medication renewals continued as well. Now that Executive Order 2020–17 is no longer in effect, routine medical and dental visits, including annual health care screenings, have resumed.
19. My loved one has a scheduled release date. Am I still allowed to pick them up at the facility? Can I bring them clothes to change in to?
Yes, as of March 23, family and friends of prisoners who are being released may still pick them up at the facility. We are asking that you remain in the parking lot until they come out. The facilities will provide dress out clothing for prisoners being released.
20. Are the classes that inmates take also cancelled?
Face-to-face college classes at all facilities are suspended. This is also a proactive step to keep all staff, volunteers, contractors, and prisoners safe. The MDOC will work with higher education institutions willing and able to deliver classes as correspondence courses. Core programming and school classes will continue at those facilities not currently under an Influenza quarantine.
21. Is extra care going into cleaning prisons and sanitizing cells?
For several weeks, facilities have undergone increased and more frequent cleaning. Bleach was also authorized for use to clean all facilities. Additional soap is being provided for prisoners and in the bathrooms. Cleaning products have been placed next to the phones and in other high traffic areas.
22. What actions are being taken to protect officers?
For staff working in the facilities, all will be asked a series of screening questions and will have their temperature checked before being allowed entrance into the prison. For those with a temperature above 100.4, they will not be allowed to work. Information on prevention has been provided to the prison population and MDOC staff. For several weeks, facilities have undergone additional and more frequent cleaning of the prisons and the use of bleach has been authorized. The MDOC has provided masks to all prison employees and they are required to wear them at all times during their shift. They can also bring in their own PPE if they prefer theirs over what the department provides.
23. Are you going to release prisoners early?
No. The MDOC has no legal authority to release prisoners before their earliest release date. The parole board continues to operate and is working to expedite paroles for parole eligible prisoners.
24. I’m a staff member and I had training and/or out of state travel scheduled. Is it cancelled?
No out-of-state business travel will be allowed until further notice. All in-state business travel should be for essential matters only. We are encouraging staff to refrain from conducting large meetings and instead use email or conference calls. If you had any travel or training scheduled, please speak with your immediate supervisor.
25. Are you testing prisoners for Covid-19 before they are released on parole?
Yes. All prisoners set to parole must take a Covid-19 test before being released. The MDOC is working to expedite the parole release of those individuals who can safely and legally be released at this time. There are a number of steps that are included in the parole release process, which now includes testing for COVID-19 to ensure the individual will not pose a risk to loved ones or the community upon release. As a result, a limited number of parole dates may be changed to accommodate these processes. If a prisoner tests positive they will not parole until they are cleared by healthcare, which is at least 14 days from the onset of symptoms. Prisoners who test negative will be parole as scheduled.