*The safety of our community and clients is our top priority. Therefore, we stress the importance of following the guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control found here and the State of Michigan found here.
The COVID-19 pandemic that is currently affecting the entire state, nation and globe presents a particularly severe risk to those who are incarcerated. The best public health advice presented by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) involves preventing the spread of COVID-19 by regularly washing hands, social distancing, and self-quarantining when necessary.
All of these precautions are especially difficult, if not impossible, in jail and prison settings.
Michigan’s Response to Jail Release
On Mar. 10th, Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. President Donald J. Trump declared a national emergency on Mar. 13th. Shortly thereafter, on Mar. 15th, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an administrative order urging all state courts to:
“to take any… reasonable measures to avoid exposing participants in court proceedings, court employees, and the general public to the COVID-19 crisis.”
The order further instructs courts to specifically, “take into careful consideration public health factors arising out of the present state of emergency… in making a pretrial release decision, including in determining any conditions of release.”
Who is Most At-Risk for COVID-19?
COVID-19 poses a notably severe health risk to individuals who are older than 60 and those who have pre-existing medical conditions, including, but not limited to:
- heart disease,
- lung disease,
- diabetes, and
- conditions resulting in the individual being immune-compromised.
Michigan’s prisons and jails are a hotbed for spreading COVID-19, as they are overcrowded and by nature, are not designed to follow the CDC’s guidelines of social distancing. On Friday, Mar. 27th, positive cases climbed to 24 inmates and one parolee, up from a single case just four days earlier.
On Monday, Mar. 30th, the first Oakland County Jail inmate tested positive for COVID-19.
That’s why we are busy drafting emergency jail release motions, such as:
- motions for bail,
- motions to challenge continued pretrial confinement for at-risk clients,
- motions for medical probation if a detainee has tested positive for COVID-19, etc., for those who qualify.
What Can I Do To Help My Loved One in Jail?
The Law Offices of Barton Morris is committed to ensuring that non-violent offenders are given a fighting chance to avoid this terrible pandemic as much as possible.
We are currently filing motions on behalf of incarcerated individuals who meet the following criteria:
- Are currently housed in a county jail awaiting trial or sentencing,
- Are currently serving a jail sentence in a local county jail; or
- Were sentenced to a term of incarceration at a Michigan prison in the last 6 months.
If the inmate has been housed in a Michigan prison for more than 6 months and currently has an appeal pending regarding their conviction, they should contact their appellate attorney to see if a request for release pending appeal is possible.
There is no such thing as early release in Michigan prisons because of Michigan’s truth in sentencing law. The law requires prisoners to serve 100% of their minimum sentence. Of the 38,000 inmates in Michigan prisons, there’s about 5,000 eligible for parole.
The parole board is currently evaluating all inmates eligible for parole. Additionally, the board is looking into releasing inmates who are 60 years or older and/or who have a preexisting health condition. All of these decisions, however, are up to the parole board.
We are hoping that Gov. Whitmer will pass an executive order to permit early release, but until that happens, there is unfortunately nothing that can be done. Feel free to contact your local elected officials to encourage the passing of a new law for early release or to request that they support an executive order that assists inmates.
Stephanie Achenbach received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University is 1996. As a political science major, she focused on world politics and studied abroad at the University of London, London, England. Ms. Achenbach her Juris Doctor degree from Michigan State University – Detroit College of Law in 2000. Admitted to practice by the State Bar of Michigan in 2000, she is also admitted to the Federal District Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Ms. Achenbach began her legal career at a large firm and then returned to the Michigan Attorney General’s office, where she had clerked throughout law school. During her 10-year tenure as an Assistant Attorney General, she practiced in both the Criminal and Labor Bureaus as a trial litigator and appellate attorney. Ms. Achenbach has successfully tried hundreds of cases and drafted over 50 appellate briefs. Her appellate achievements also include an appeal from 2010 that resulted in a published Michigan Court of Appeals opinion. Today, Ms. Achenbach is a member of the Law Offices of Barton Morris, a criminal boutique law firm. As a Senior Associate, Ms. Achenbach handles state and federal criminal cases, including appeals. She also handles alcohol related driving offenses and license restitution matters.