More than a third of inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 in four Michigan prisons

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click to enlarge More than a third of inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 in four Michigan prisons

At four Michigan prisons, more than a third of the inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.

The most recent outbreak has hammered Muskegon Correctional Facility, where 612 people have tested positive since the first case was confirmed on July 27, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). That’s 47% of the prison’s population infected in less than a month.

Every inmate has been tested, and MDOC officials said they’ve instructed all 1,296 inmates to frequently wash their hands and practice social distancing. Inmates who test positive are immediately isolated from the general population, officials said.

But one inmate, Graham Crawford, 38, said he spotted an infected prisoner mingling with the general population.

"There was a guy that knew he was positive, standing in front of the fan in front of a group of six or seven of us waiting for the shower," Crawford told The Detroit Free Press. "He was told he was positive and he was packed up and waiting to move. ... Standing in front of a 30-inch fan with his mask off."

State officials believe employees brought the virus into the prison because visitors have been banned from entering the facility since mid-March.

So far, no deaths have been reported at Muskegon Correctional Facility.

The worst-hit prison in the state is Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, where more than half of the population has tested positive for COVID-19, and 23 have died from complications of the virus, according to MDOC. Its outbreaks were reported in March and April, when 790 inmates tested positive. In the three months since then, the prison has only reported 25 new cases, according to MDOC.

At G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson, 46% of the roughly 1,700 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. Most of those cases were reported in March and April.

About 37% of the more than 1,900 inmates at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian have been infected with the coronavirus, a vast majority of whom tested positive in May. In July, Randy Rumbler, a food service employee at the prison, died from COVID-19.

Across the state’s 29 prison facilities, 4,620 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 since March. That represents 12.3% of the total prison population. In all, 68 inmates and three staff members have died.

In late April, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Michigan for its handling of the coronavirus in prisons. The lawsuit accuses MDOC of violating inmates’ Eighth Amendment rights, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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