COVID-19 toll in Michigan prisons: 21 inmate, 2 staff deaths

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Twenty-one Michigan prisoners along with two correction staff members have died after contracting the coronavirus, three weeks after the department saw its first virus-related death, officials said.

The Michigan Department of Corrections said it is taking a series of measures to protect its staff and the prison population as positive cases of the novel coronavirus are identified in the state.

Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility

All told, Michigan has about 37,700 prisoners, and 574 coronavirus infections. 

On April 15, the department reported 11 inmate deaths; by Monday, the number nearly doubled. 

Among the state's 12,000 corrections department staffers, 210 are confirmed to have the virus, and two have died from it. One was an officer at the Detroit Re-entry Center and the other worked in field operations.

"We mourn the loss of two corrections professionals, a corrections transportation officer and a word processing assistant at the Lahser Probation Office in Detroit, who passed away after contracting coronavirus," the department said in an online statement. "Their dedication to the safety of all Michigan residents will not be forgotten. Our thoughts are with their family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time."

The department now requires that all employees working in facilities, and all inmates, wear masks.

► More: Mich. corrections officers get hazard pay, dispute use of sick time for quarantines

Joe Kearney, first inmate to die from COVID-19.

Joe Kearney was the first inmate to die from the virus after he was found unresponsive in his cell on April 1. Kearney, 55, was housed at the Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson and did not previously tell health care workers he was feeling sick, the department said.

Since his death, 164 inmates have tested positive at the Jackson facility and 63 have recovered from the virus, according to state records.

The most recent inmate death, reported Monday, was a prisoner housed at Lakeland Correctional Facility. Two additional prisoners were reported dead on Saturday and Sunday at Lakeland. 

The majority of impacted inmates are housed at:

Parnall Correctional: 164 virus positive, five deaths

Lakeland Correctional: 112 virus positive, eight deaths

Macomb Correctional: 81 virus positive, one death

Women's Huron Valley Correctional: 64 virus positive, two deaths

G. Robert Cotton Correctional: 62 virus positive

Charles E. Egeler Correctional: 26 virus positive tests, two deaths

Duane Waters Health: 18 virus positive, one death

Detroit Re-entry Center: 16 virus positive, two deaths

The State Department said staff transporting prisoners are fully dressed in personal protective equipment and anyone who has been ordered to telecommunicate will not return to work until directed by state officials.

The department has suspended visitations and will continue to process paroles and releases as scheduled. Parole Board lifer and commutation public hearings have been postponed.

All facilities have been using bleach during facility cleaning. Additional soap is being provided for prisoners and in the bathrooms. Cleaning products are available to clean commonly used areas and phones before and after use, the department said

"The need for social distancing to help prevent the spread of this virus has included asking organizations to have as many people telecommute as possible, and the MDOC is doing that to the extent we can," the department said.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_