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.
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 will continue to process paroles and release prisoners as scheduled at this time.
5. Is the Parole Board still having public hearings?
Parole Board public hearings for a small number of life sentence cases have been postponed.
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?
While visits are canceled, a prisoner’s representative will still be able to attend a scheduled parole interview, but they are subject to the same screening process as facility staff. This includes answering questions about potential Coronavirus exposure and a temperature check.
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, but initially GTL has offered two free, five-minute phone calls each week and JPay is offering two free stamps per week. These both begin Tuesday, March 17. We will continue to work with the companies on anything else they may be willing to provide.
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.
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 April 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. 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?
Facility healthcare staff will meet with prisoners who have presented with symptoms of COVID-19. The MDOC cannot make the diagnosis of the COVID-19, however, the department is following the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) protocol. If a prisoner has symptoms and meets the criteria for testing, the MDOC will seek permission from the local health department in the county the prison is in to conduct a test utilizing a test kit. A limited number of test kits have been distributed to all MDOC facilities but can only be used after the MDHHS authorizes the test.
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 is postponing all non-urgent healthcare visits. To be clear, if a prisoner is sick, they will still be seen. There are no co-pays for urgent and emergent care as well as for suspected cases of the flu and COVID-19. Appointments for chronic care cases and med lines continue to operate. Medication renewals continue as well. Routine medical and dental visits, including annual health screenings, will be rescheduled when the issue passes.
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. You can enter the facility only to leave a change of clothing for your loved one with the front desk officer.
20. Are the classes that inmates take also cancelled?
Face-to-face college classes at all facilities are suspended for at least the next three weeks. 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 for the next three weeks. 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.
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 interviewing prisoners and paroling prisoners as it has been.
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 through May 15. 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 between now and May 15, please speak with your immediate supervisor.