*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.

Inmate sitting in jail cell looking dejected

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.

Coronavirus (SARCOV2) at a glance

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.

Listen to Attorney Barton Morris discuss the importance of early jail/prison release for non-violent offenders on WWJ Newsradio 950 on March 31st, 2020 here and here. 

If you have a loved one that is currently being held in jail awaiting trial or sentencing, or confined to jail serving a sentence, contact us by phone at (248) 541-2600 or contact us below. During this difficult time, we are available remotely by phone or Skype. We will quickly evaluate your case and move forward with necessary emergency motion or appeal to have your loved one released.
Contact Us about Early Jail Release