Prison Reform Advocates Call on Wayne County Prosecutor to Protect Incarcerated People, Reduce Jail Population Amid COVID-19 Outbreak
DETROIT, MI—Today, the Wayne County For The People Coalition, a group of local Detroit-based and national criminal justice reform organizations, delivered a letter to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office demanding immediate action to protect incarcerated people from the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter, which is available here, calls on Worthy’s office to implement decarceral policies to slow the social spread of the disease, reduce the “churn” of individuals coming in and out of jail facilities, and prevent the deaths of vulnerable people.
“There are more than one thousand citizens incarcerated in the Wayne County Jail who are vulnerable to contracting the COVID-19 virus. As an official elected to represent the people of Wayne County, Prosecutor Kym Worthy has an obligation to release as many individuals as possible to curb the spread of this global pandemic” said Ashley Carter, Senior Staff Attorney at the Advancement Project National Office.
The letter puts forth several decarceral demands designed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease and reduce harm to incarcerated men and women. The demands include reforms to money bail and immigration detainer policies to end detention for anyone who does not pose a risk of serious injury; reducing travel restrictions for individuals under community supervision to allow them to self-isolate; eliminating requirements for in-person check-ins with probation, pretrial services, parole, and ICE; and reducing the overall jail population by agreeing to release minors, low-risk individuals, and individuals particularly susceptible to the disease.
“I am familiar with the conditions of the Wayne County Jail and it is impossible to practice social distancing in a facility that is overcrowded. During this time it is important for the Wayne County prosecutor to not be tough on crime and to be smart on saving human lives,” said Nicholas Buckingham, Campaign Director at Michigan Liberation.
“With the United States now at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, leaders like Kym Worthy must do everything in their power to protect those most vulnerable to this pandemic,” said Scott Roberts, Senior Director for Criminal Justice Campaigns at Color of Change. “Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate health care in jails and prisons put incarcerated individuals at a disproportionately high risk of infection. And because these facilities restrict access to soap and hand sanitizer, imprisoned individuals cannot take even basic steps to protect themselves. As Wayne County works to stop a viral outbreak, it must not leave these individuals behind.
“Today, we are delivering this letter to Kym Worthy’s office both as advocates for fair, just prison reform and as concerned neighbors and citizens. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has a poor track record for delivering justice to incarcerated individuals, and in the wake of this crisis, it is more important than ever that it shifts its course. It is not too late to prevent a crisis at Wayne County’s jails and prisons, but only if Kym Worthy heeds these demands closely and quickly.”
“As a person who has spent a considerable amount of time in jails and prisons from my experience, Wayne County Jail is probably the most dangerous place to be during this pandemic. To say it simply, Wayne County Jail is not now and has never been equipped to handle a crisis of this nature. For example, when someone locked up gets the flu, the whole pod is sure to get it as well.
“As a person who, due to my age, is at the highest risk of dying from the symptoms related to COVID-19, I could not imagine the fear that folks on the inside feel. I call on Wayne County and Kym Worthy to reduce the jail population immediately, give folks the chance to stay safe, and return to their loved ones,” said Walter Travier, a member of Detroit Action.
The Wayne County For The People Coalition is a group of local and national justice reform organizations working to demand accountability and transparency from Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, the Detroit Police Department, and the Michigan Department of Corrections. The group was founded earlier this year by Color Of Change, Michigan Liberation, We the People, Detroit Action, The Advancement Project National Office , and The Mass Liberation Project.
Color Of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. We help people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us. As a national online force driven by over 1.4 million members, we move decision-makers in corporations and governments to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America. Visit www.colorofchange.org.
Michigan Liberation is organizing to end the criminalization of Black families and communities of color in Michigan. We envision a transformation of our criminal justice system that will no longer produce mass incarceration or mass policing. We envision a state with the best public education in the nation, single payer healthcare which includes excellent mental health and healing services and thriving Black and Brown communities. Michigan Liberation conducts grassroots organizing, lobbying and supports candidates that share our vision for Michigan. Visit www.miliberation.org
Advancement Project National Office is a next generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change. Visit www.advancementproject.org
Detroit Action is a grassroots member-led, community-based organization fighting for political power, racial and economic justice for working-class Detroiters.
The Mass Liberation Project is an effort to nurture grassroots organizing for the movement to create a world where prisons and punishment aren’t necessary. The project acts as a site of personal transformation, training, coaching and organizing strategy for those most impacted by mass incarceration and criminalization.