Metro Detroit county jails reviewing cases to see which inmates could be released amid coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Some people already released

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

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

MORE: Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Michigan continue to rise, but what do these numbers mean?

Only non-violent offenders are being considered for release and all decisions are being made by court judges, often the judge who sentenced an inmate.

Inmates being considered in Macomb County could see their time reduced, bonds reduced or be released on a tether.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said before the coronavirus crisis, the jail housed about 875 inmates. As of Tuesday there were only 675, releasing 200 inmates in roughly the last month.

Wickersham says any cut in sentence time comes from the courts. He said there are a lot of pretrial inmates who have been arrested and haven’t had their hearing yet. He says those individuals have due process rights to be brought in front of court. Attorneys are asking if the hearing can be done and if not, asking if there is a chance to get lower bond or be released to the community, possibly on a tether.

In Oakland County, Sheriff Michael Bouchard tells Local 4 jail personnel is reviewing cases for early release. It is a time consuming process because they are looking at the current offense and history of offenders.

Only nonviolent offenders and those with medical conditions are eligible on a case-by-case basis. All decisions made by the sentencing judge. Three weeks ago the Oakland County jail had 1,262 inmates, Tuesday it had 1,079.

Wayne County tells Local 4 it has released nonviolent and traffic inmates. The focus has been on those in jail who have a medical condition.

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.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement released last Friday that reads in part: “We are clearly aware that the safety of the public is also paramount. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic we have been working on the issue of administrative release of prisoners non-stop. There are many stakeholders that must be consulted - the Courts, the Sheriff’s Department, the Health Department, Prosecutors Office, a representative of the prisoners and their attorneys from Michigan Legal Services, jail personnel, medical personnel, and others. There are currently just under 100 people that have now been identified for Administrative Release.”

In Washtenaw County, Sheriff Jerry Clayton said they anticipated this health crisis several month ago and began a plan to reduce the jail population. They are reviewing each prisoner case by case and sending a list to the court. The jail population last year was 365 inmates. On Tuesday it was housing 240 inmates. Again all decisions made by the sentencing judges.

Wickersham said reducing the jail population can help them keep inmates separated. Also, two weeks ago the jail began separating new inmates into a different section of the jail for five days before they were assessed and determined if they could move into the jail population.

Wickersham said public safety is the priority for all law enforcement. Deputies and police will be out protecting the community and that anyone taking advantage, they will have no qualms arresting them and bring them 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.