County jails in Metro Detroit begin releasing some inmates in attempt to slow coronavirus (COVID-19) spread

Officials review cases

Some inmates inside county jails across Metro Detroit are being considered for early release because of the coronavirus pandemic.

DETROIT – County jails in Metro Detroit are making decisions about who remains behind bars and who gets released early in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

As the virus continues to spread, officials with the jails in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties are working with the courts to see who could be released early to help slow that spread.

MORE: Here’s which Michigan counties have confirmed cases of coronavirus

“There is a vetting process. Judges are making tough decisions and are really looking at who’s going to go to jail -- who needs to go to jail and who doesn’t,” said Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, with the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office.

Some Macomb County inmates are having their sentences reduced, their bonds lowered or are being released on a tether.

Wickersham said 200 inmates have been released in about a month. There are currently 675 people in the jail.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said officials are reviewing cases of nonviolent offenders and people with medical conditions. This includes looking at current offenses, as well as offense history.

The jail’s population has been decreased from 1,262 to 1,079 in three weeks.

Wayne County has released nonviolent offenders and people jailed for traffic offenses. Officials are focusing on inmates who have medical conditions.

The jail has released 243 inmates since COVID-19 has become a concern, and the jail averages about 30 releases per day.

The jail had 1,381 inmates as of March 10. There are currently 1,138 inmates in the jail, compared to 1,656 last March.

Washtenaw County officials have also been reviewing cases. Currently, there are 240 people in the jail that can hold 365 inmates.

All release decisions will be made by the judge who sentenced the person. Officials noted that public safety is important and people who break the law will still go to jail.

How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • Spread is possible before people show symptoms. People who are not showing symptoms can still be carrying the virus and can still pass it on to other people.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

Prevention & Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

MORE: Beaumont Health launches coronavirus hotline for patients with symptoms

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Question about coronavirus? Ask Dr. McGeorge here.

Read more about coronavirus here.

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.