Michigan prisoners' rights advocates call for end to juvenile life sentences, better COVID protocols

Advocacy groups call for change in prison and criminal justice systems during Valentine's Day rally
Posted at 4:27 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 23:08:27-05

LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan nonprofit organization is using Valentine's Day to get lawmakers and the public to show a little love for incarcerated people and their families.

The Michigan Poor People's Campaign wants to end overcrowding, stop life sentences for juveniles and implement programs that can get people out of prison more quickly.

The rally on the steps of the Michigan Capitol building featured speakers from the faith community as well as advocacy groups looking for change in how sentencing is determined, how long people stay behind bars and how COVID is handled on the inside.

“These are your neighbors These are your brothers, your sisters, your mothers and your fathers," said Jose Burgos, a re-entry specialist with the State Appellate Defender Office. "These are people who are incarcerated and suffering in there from long sentences, overcrowding, COVID-19. So we have to care. As a people, we have to care."

One focal point of Monday’s rally was building support for legislation like Senate Bill 649, which would reinstate good time credits for inmates who aren’t found guilty of misconduct during their time behind bars.

Those credits would add up over time and go toward reducing minimum sentences which supporters say would save the state $4 billion in a five-year period.

“Good time would give everyone the ability to start earning credits from the first day they walk in," said Mary Cusack of Michigan Justice Advocacy. "This makes a safer environment for incarcerated people and for the staff of the MDOC."

Prisoner rights advocates also say that COVID-19 can be a death sentence for prisoners if its not addressed.

“Nobody was sentenced to die in the prisons in Michigan. We don’t have the death penalty here," said Machelle Pearson of Michigan Liberation. "So why are they being legally killed in our prison system?”

The protesters planned to deliver hand-written letters to the department of corrections, the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature listing the changes they’d like to see.

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