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To: Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy
Kym Worthy-COVID-19 Demands
The Wayne County For the People Coalition are calling on the Wayne County Prosecutor to act immediately to protect the lives of the people impacted by prisons and jails in Wayne County. The spread of COVID-19 is a national emergency that threatens thousands of lives across our country. According to the latest estimates, the death toll from this virus could range anywhere from 200,000 to more than one million people in the United States alone. While everyone is at risk, we have a moral obligation to ensure that our most vulnerable—the elderly, the sick, those without medical care, and those unable to protect themselves from the virus—get the help they need. We have a further obligation to our community to keep the people in jails and prisons, and their communities, safe.
WE ARE WRITING TO URGE YOU TO ENACT THE FOLLOWING DECARCERAL GUIDELINES:
1. Stop all new detentions of anyone who does not pose a risk of serious injury to a reasonably identifiable person. This includes but is not limited to people being held for unpaid money bail or immigration bonds, immigration detainer holds, or detainer holds for technical violations of parole or probation—regardless of the underlying offense.
Do not increase community supervision or ankle shackling as a substitution for in-person custody.
2. Remove the threat of incarceration for people who are already under community supervision to allow people to travel and access medical care, stay isolated when necessary, and take care of themselves and their families.
3. Eliminate requirements for in-person check-ins with probation, pretrial services, parole, and/or ICE to prevent the spread of disease.
4. Eliminate restrictions on movement for people under the surveillance of ankle shackles to allow access to medical care, family and loved ones who may need care or support.
5. Reduce the prison population by agreeing to the early release of anyone within 18 months of their release date.
6. Reduce the local jail population by agreeing to the release of anyone who is held pretrial and who does not pose an unreasonable safety risk to a specific person or persons.
7. Reduce the prison population by agreeing to hold all new state prison sentences if delaying the sentence would not pose an unreasonable risk of safety to a specific person or persons.
8. Reduce the local jail population by agreeing to the release of all people serving a misdemeanor sentence who are within six months of their release date.
9. Reduce the prison and jail populations by agreeing to the release of all people held on probation and parole technical violation detainers or sentences.
Make transparent a policy, vetted by public health officials, for handling COVID-19 within your office.
Why is this important?
The decarceral guidelines below are designed to prevent three things: social spreading, jail “churn,” and the deaths of vulnerable people.
In order to prevent the rapid growth of COVID-19 from overburdening our health-care system and claiming lives, both those in secure facilities and the people who work in them, it is the responsibility of decision-makers at every level to prevent and contain the spread of the virus by taking action to promote the most effective strategy in abating the pandemic: social distancing in order to slow “community spread.”
The Particular Issue of Jail and Prison “Churn”
Jails and Prisons combine the worst aspects of a cruise ship and a large public gathering and, thus, can be the perfect breeding ground for the spread of COVID-19. People are constantly booked into and out of jail and prison facilities and each night guards, vendors, and other jail staff are going home while others are coming in- which results in a massive turnover. For example, more than half of the people in jail are only in there for two to three days.
Further, enclosed structures like jails can cause COVID-19 to spread like wildfire and introducing just one person with it can lead to it impacting not just everyone inside the jail or prison but anyone leaving the facility—whether a person who is released or staff returning back to their homes— who then interact with their communities.
Preventive Measures Cannot Be Taken in Jails and Prisons.
Experts recommend that to protect the people most vulnerable from death or serious illness from COVID-19 that they are appropriately separated through social distancing. Yet separating sick people from well people to prevent the disease from spreading can be nearly impossible in prison due to logistical considerations.